‘Amend discriminatory definition of antiquity in Sarawak Heritage Bill’, says Chong

Chong showing the clause in Section 16 of the new Sarawak Heritage Bill, 2019, with regards to the definition of antiquity.

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Nov 5: The Sarawak government has been told to amend the definition of antiquity in the newly tabled Sarawak Heritage Bill, 2019,  which has element of discrimination against the non-natives.

Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen said the definition of antiquity was too wide and if it was to be pushed to its limit, would encroach into the everyday lives of ordinary Sarawakians and affect the non-natives like the Chinese.

“If we look at the definition of antiquity, it is too wide, as ‘any object that is movable and immovable, part of soil, under water, which has been constructed, painted or otherwise produced or modify by men, human, non-human, agency and which is, or reasonably, believed to be at least 50 years old.

“So, if you push it to the limit, your father above 50 years old is considered antiquity,” he told a press conference at the DUN media centre after debating the bill in the august House today.

The bill was tabled by Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

As a collector of stamps and coins, where some were over 50 years old, Chong argued that these collections would be regarded as antiquity.

“Section 16 (will) impose on me as ‘any person other than a native of Sarawak, who is in possession of any antiquity, shall register such antiquity with the director or any officers’. Failing which, there is a penalty of RM20,000 and imprisonment of term not exceeding five years,” he read out the clause.

He added: “Come on, I have stamps in my house, which my father and grandfather gave to me. I also don’t know how old these things are and some of the items I may have forgotten. But if I fail to register, I contravene this Section.”

Reiterating that the bill should not encroach into and affect the lives of ordinary people, he said it would not affect natives like Abdul Karim, who is of Malay descendant.

“It will affect the non-native Sarawakians. I think we pride ourselves as a state where there is no racial discrimination and disharmony. We Sarawakians are living in perfect harmony.

“But here we have an Act that discriminate against the non-native, basically the Chinese. That is just not right,” he said.

He reiterated that it was not only the discrimination part, but the definition is ridiculous and so wide that literally everyone could get reprimanded.

“For example, if you have a wok in the kitchen of 50 years old, then you will get caught under the definition of antiquity.

“It has to be amended or else it will put all of us to shame as Sarawak DUN actually tabled an Act which discriminate against the non-native even in matters like preserving heritage,” he said.

Noting that the Sarawak Heritage Bill, 2019, was intended to preserve the heritage and antiquity including tangible and intangible, Chong added that he was all for and fully supports the bill. — DayakDaily