Community leaders and village chiefs different, says Sarawak PKR man

Sarawak PKR secretary Vernon Kedit. (Gambar Facebook)

KUCHING: A Sarawak PKR leader has urged Assistant Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring Minister Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali not to complicate matters over the appointment of community leaders in the state.

PKR state secretary Vernon Kedit said Deputy Rural and Regional Development Minister Sivarasa Rasiah had clarified that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government would not appoint village chiefs in Sarawak and that it would remain under the state’s control.

“What the PH government will do is appoint the heads of the Village Community Management Councils (MPKK).

“They may or may not already be the village chiefs,” Kedit said in a statement here today.

He said if the village chief was appointed as the head of the MPKK, it would only complement what the state government has already done.

According to him, the MPKK chairpersons’ allowances would be paid by the federal government.

Community leaders and village chiefs are two different levels of authorities in Sarawak, Kedit said.

He said the federal government had no say in the appointments of the community leaders, which consisted of the temenggong, pemancha and penghulu.

The salaries of these community leaders are wholly paid by the Sarawak government, he said.

The village chiefs, on the other hand, comprised of the “ketua kampung” as well as the “tuai rumah” (longhouse chief). Their allowances are currently paid by the federal and state governments.

“The appointment of the village chiefs has always been and will continue to be the state’s prerogative, as enacted in the state ordinances,” he said.

Therefore, he said no laws would be broken and no interference would take place, let alone infringement of Sarawak’s sacred rights.

“Sharifah can rest assured that no one is trying to take this right away from Sarawak.

“Nevertheless, I understand Sharifah’s real concern. For years, the Barisan Nasional had used community leaders and village chiefs to control the flow of information and manipulate the rural votes.”

Kedit said with this new initiative by the federal government, this iron grip would be weakened.

“Chairpersons will be on the payroll of the PH government and this would be GPS’ worst nightmare,” he said, referring to the Gabungan Parti Sarawak coalition government in power.

Kedit said it was natural for the GPS government to see this initiative as an imminent threat to its absolute dominance and iron grip over rural communities over the past 55 years.

However, he said there was nothing “inappropriate” in the PH government having the interests of Sarawakians at heart.

Yesterday, Sharifah said Putrajaya should not interfere in the appointment of community leaders in Sarawak.

She said the state has the prerogative to appoint its own community leaders since it had passed the Community Chief and Head Ordinance in 2004.