Selfish leaders blocking common Dayak identity, says Jeffrey

Jeffrey Kitingan.

KOTA KINABALU: Borneo Dayak Forum (BDF) International president Jeffrey Kitingan has dismissed suggestions that the natives in Sabah are indifferent towards efforts to unite them under a single Borneo native identity.

Kitingan said this is because they did not see the significance and advantage of having one identity.

“They have been indoctrinated with the divide and rule mentality for generations. They see things in bits and pieces and are unable to see the forest for the trees.

“They are thus unable to see the box because they have been compartmentalised inside. This is so unfortunate,” he said.

Jeffrey said many of the indigenous people felt that accepting a common identity would replace their own identities as Kadazan, Momogun or Murut.

However, he said this kind of defensive thinking could not be further from the truth.

“If anything, it is the opposite because the single Dayak identity enhances their ethnic identity as one needs to belong to an ethnic or racial native group in Borneo to be a Dayak.

“Ordinary folk seem to be able to recognise the benefits of having a Borneo native identity compared to leaders. I wonder if this is because our leaders seem to have this phobia of losing out,” he told FMT.

Kitingan reiterated that the indigenous people of Borneo must group together to have a strong voice as it was their right under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

“This voice needs to be heard by the governments and global exploitative corporations operating or intending to carry out resource-based and environmentally sensitive businesses in Borneo.

“We cannot remain fragmented and be mentally, politically and economically colonised and dependent forever.

“We must realise our weaknesses and act to overcome them and we must realise our fundamental rights and seek to enjoy them.

“But we can only move on effectively if we set aside all our prejudices and defensive, self-imposed mental obstacles and seek to encourage others to do the same,” he said.

BDF is a pan-Borneo socio-cultural body that aims to unite all Dayak tribes, including the Kadazandusun and Murut people in Sabah, under one umbrella.

Officially launched in 2010, it has succeeded in obtaining a permanent representative for the Dayak people at the United Nations this year.