Association urges governments to uphold special positions, including reserved quotas for natives

Participants from across Sarawak attending one of the forums held by Sadia.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, March 14: The Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) is calling upon both the Sarawak and federal governments to further uphold the special position and rights of the native peoples, specifically by ensuring reserved quotas in public service, trade or business permits, scholarships, and educational or training opportunities for qualified Iban individuals and the broader Dayak community.

This call stems from resolutions adopted during a series of forums held in collaboration with the Canadian Funds for Local Initiatives (CFLI) between Aug 26, 2023, and Jan 17, 2024, pursuant to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) 2007.

The resolutions adopted in the forums emphasised the need for concrete actions from both the federal and Sarawak governments concerning Article 153 of the Federal Constitution and Article 39 of the State Constitution, which pertain to the special rights and privileges of Malays and natives, including the establishment of quotas for civil service entry, public scholarships, and education.

Sadia deputy secretary-general Andrew Paul acknowledged the recognition of qualified Ibans and the Dayak community in higher positions by the governments but highlighted that it falls short of native community expectations.

“As indicated in the two provisions, they grant special rights and privileges to the Malays and indigenous peoples of Sarawak and Sabah, which should be upheld and respected.

“This reality is evident in the data concerning civil service, education, and other domains. It would be beneficial if the governments could enact measures to guarantee reserved quotas or proportions in civil service, permits, scholarships, and other areas for the Iban or indigenous population in Sarawak,” he told DayakDaily when contacted today.

Article 153 of the Federal Constitution grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong responsibility for safeguarding the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of the communities. The provision goes on to provide that this include the establishment of quotas for entry into the civil services, public scholarships and education.

Similarly, Article 39 of the Sarawak Constitution underscores the reservation of quotas concerning public and educational opportunities for indigenous peoples.

The forums also addressed other issues such as urging the federal government to legislate Article 26(3) of UNDRIP and urging the Sarawak government to legally recognise the customary rights of the Iban and Dayak community over their Pulau Galau.

“We hope the federal government can legislate ‘pulau galau’, which is currently a soft law recognised by the government based on goodwill, in accordance with Article 76 of the Federal Constitution which empowers the Parliament to standardise laws and policies in relation with the local government,” Andrew added.

Some 720 individuals, comprising members of Sadia branches in Kuching, Sri Aman, Sibu, Song, Kapit, Kanowit, Bintulu, and Miri, government agencies and native customary rights (NCR) landowners attended the forums.

The first forum was successfully organised in Kuching on Aug 26, 2023, followed by Sri Aman, Sibu, Bintulu and the final forum was held on Jan 17, 2024 in Miri.

The topics discussed ranged from rights of the indigenous peoples over land, territories, and resources, to climate change, forest carbon, gender equality, issues affecting Iban women, and sustainability of the Iban community in this century.

In a media release, Sadia president Sidi Munan announced plans to organise talks to address the major decisions or resolutions passed during the forums, aiming to convey their concerns to the governments.

He expressed gratitude to the National Executive Committee, forum organisers, branch committee members, government agencies, and the Canadian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur for their collaboration. — DayakDaily