KOTA KINABALU: The Dayaks of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei now have a permanent United Nations (UN) representative in the person of Sabah-born Andrew Ambrose, a specialist in international development for the Borneo Dayak Forum (BDF).
Ambrose, who goes by the nickname Atama, was appointed to the chair by the Temenggung International Conference (TIC), which met late last month. His task is to champion the inherent rights of the Dayak tribe as an indigenous people.
These rights are protected under the 2007 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“I will be at the UN as one of the representatives of indigenous populations accommodated by international institutions,” Atama told FMT in a recent interview. “I’ll be there to fight for and maintain the Dayaks’ right to life.”
He said he would set up office in New York next year.
The Dayak tribe is native to Borneo and its members inhabit territories throughout the island, in Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and the Indonesian region of Kalimantan.
Last year, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to “enhance the participation of indigenous peoples’ representatives and institutions” in meetings of relevant UN bodies on issues affecting them.
Atama is also the Asia coordinator for the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation.
The UN recognises his appointment as the Dayaks’ permanent representative because it has the blessing of the tribe’s traditional government.
“This traditional government is recognised through a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly in 2015,” he noted.
His role is to be voice of the Dayak in the whole of Borneo when negotiating with member countries of the UN.
“We view this representation as a recognition of the rights of the Dayak people as an indigenous people,” he said. “This is the international platform for the Dayak in Borneo to speak up with one voice as one people. By participating at the international level, the Dayak people will now speak to the world directly.”
Atama said TIC also agreed at last month’s meeting to form a management team to work towards the establishment of the Dayak International Justice (DIJ), which is set to be the highest customary judicial body to settle intercommunity disputes among the indigenous peoples of Borneo.
The team will be chaired by BDF secretary-general Agustinus Clarus with Atama as secretary and five members representing Kalimantan, Sarawak and Sabah.
“DIJ will form a management body each for Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and the Malaysian Federation,” Atama said.
He said the team would, in the next three months, consult groups in Sabah and Sarawak to find one common law to use as the first basis of jurisprudence. “Each territory will then host a congress to pass a resolution to empower the DIJ.”
The DIJ is scheduled to be launched in central Kalimantan next April 29.