New council to unify Dayak native laws in Borneo

Benedict Topin has been appointed president of the new Dayak International Justice Council

KOTA KINABALU: An international Dayak congress has decided to compile and eventually document a common set of adat or customary laws to be followed by the community throughout Borneo.

The congress also adopted a motion to look into renaming Borneo Island as Dayak island.

Kadazandusun Cultural Association member Benedict Topin, who was appointed first president of the Dayak International Justice Council, told FMT that the council was tasked to document all written and oral native laws from all Dayak groups in Borneo.

The collected laws would be used as the basis of creating a common native law for all Dayaks.

He said the Dayak tribes, which number more than 500, have different opinions about their own traditions and practices because each were influenced by their experiences and history.

Many of the adat concepts are similar and even share the same law, but each Dayak group use different terminology to describe them. The council will identify similarities and strengthen them before disseminating them to all the Dayak people.

He said smaller adat councils might be formed at community level to discuss specific customs of each community, to find the common customs and highlight those.

“We don’t need to eliminate the diversity because it has special functions for the specific communities. We just need to strengthen our similarities,” he said.

The congress also appointed a deputy president and a secretary-general.

The deputy president is Askiman, who is Deputy Regent of Sintang in the province of West Kalimantan, while the secretary-general is Thadeus Yus, of the Faculty of Law at the University of Tanjungpura Pontianak.

Askiman, who had proposed that Borneo Island be renamed as Dayak Island, said the proposal was welcomed by congress participants and a motion was passed to delve deeper into the issue in the future.