KUCHING: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Joseph Entulu Belaun is of the view that giving the term ‘Dayak’ the force of law is important but not urgent, saying its inclusion in the Malaysian Constitution “does not ensure anything”.
He was reacting to a press statement from Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDS Baru) that the term ‘Dayak’ thus far had not been given the force of law ever since a call for it to be recognised was made about three years ago.
He reasoned that “even if ‘Dayak’ is in the constitution, its inclusion still does not ensure anything”.
Entulu said there is a need for the government of the day to hold a two-thirds majority in Parliament before it pursues to table the amendment to the Malaysian Constitution to include the term ‘Dayak’.
“If the Bill (to amend the constitution to include the term ‘Dayak’) is defeated, the government would be embarrassed by it. As a rule, any government of the day does not dare to count on the help of the opposition.
“In fact, if an incumbent government abides by parliamentary convention, it should dissolve Parliament if any of its Bills is defeated. That is how serious the issue of a defeated Bill can be,” he reasoned.
The Selangau MP and deputy president of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) said, however, that should he still remain as Selangau MP after the next parliamentary election, and also if the Barisan Nasional (BN) manages to get a two-thirds majority in Parliament, it is highly possible that he could talk to the Prime Minister on having the Bill tabled in the next term.
In a press statement, PBDS Baru secretary-general Anthony Nais pointed out that three steps need to be taken before the word ‘Dayak’ as a race has legal force.
Anthony said: “There is no significant move from the government since three years ago after the Federal Cabinet’s approval to add the term ‘Dayak’ into the list of recognised races in the country and acknowledging this fact represented Step One.”
Anthony, who was once the deputy youth chief of the now-defunct PBDS, also said the government should table an amendment in Parliament for it to have legal sanction.
“The third step is for the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly to endorse Parliament’s decision. Once that is done, then Dayak as a race has the force of law.”
He stressed that as it stands now, the term ‘Dayak’ is just an administrative decision by the Federal Cabinet so that Dayaks do not have to use the term ‘lain-lain’ (others) in government forms.
“There is no paradigm move made by the government of Malaysia, yet our Dayak representatives remain silent.
“Now, we must give it the force of law. The term ‘lain-lain’ is to accommodate others who refused to be classified as Dayak, or they are not members of the Malay, Chinese or Indian race,” he said.
He said he hoped Parliament would table the amendment soon.
“As for the state, it doesn’t matter who tables it as long as the job gets done.
“We do not want of be known as ‘illegal race’ when we call ourselves Dayak. Doesn’t that sound illegal?”
He added that the Federal Constitution’s definition of ‘natives’ also needed to be updated, to be consistent with the Sarawak Constitution as the term ‘Land Dayaks’, ‘Sea Dayaks’ and ‘Muruts’ have been updated as ‘Bidayuhs’, ‘Ibans’ and ‘Lun Bawangs’ respectively.
“These are one of the many challenges faced by the Dayaks. The question is, are they afraid or being trained to be afraid to voice out?”
He claimed that the Dayaks’ slow and lukewarm response to any issue that affect their community, in general, are partly the reasons why the Dayaks are still lagging behind other races in Malaysia in many aspects.
“We shall carry our own weight and not let others paddle for us. Be a general instead of foot soldiers,” Anthony stressed.
The bone of contention is that the race column of all government forms are still using the term ‘Dan Lain Lain’ to refer to races other than the Malay, Chinese and Indian, which has put members of the Dayak community in limbo for being classified as ‘Dan Lain Lain’ (Others).