KUCHING, Jan 26: Village headmen and community chiefs should not be chided for not voting for the government of the day as they have as much right as any Sarawakian to choose who they vote for.
Bersih Sarawak chairman Ann Teo said appointed village headmen and community chiefs are mere public servants who receive allowances from the government under the Community Chiefs and Headmen Ordinance 2004.
“There is nothing democratic about this manner of appointing community chiefs who are supposed to serve their respective community first and foremost and in the old days chosen by the people whom he/she serves, and by which he assumes and has the legal and moral authority to settle disputes and manage the affairs of his people in general and is responsible for their welfare.
“By this Ordinance (Section 6) too, they become mere public servants, receiving allowances from the government to serve the government of the day,” she said.
On Sarawak lands where democracy is practised, Teo said longhouse or community heads should be free to not vote for any incumbents whom has not served well or has differing views on certain issues.
Just like civil servants, she added, the local leaders should not be subjected to condescension or threats of stripping them of posts or other reprisals.
Seeing how the village headmen and community chiefs have been mistreated on some occasions, she suggested to bring back village-level elections.
“Perhaps it is time to return to village-level elections by the people, rather than being appointed so that the elected ‘Tuai Rumahs’ will be free from such unwarranted coercion and hegemony,” she said in a statement today.
Teo was responding to statement dated Jan 23 by Assistant Minister II of Education, Innovation and Talent Development Francis Harden Hollis on social media that “it is awkward and absurd for longhouse chiefs who oppose the government to receive allowances or salaries from the government.” — DayakDaily