Can a Dayak be the Chief Minister of Sarawak?

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Set to hold its Triennial Delegates’ Conference (TDC) within 20 days’ time or so, the many vacant supreme council seats within Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) has fueled many a discussion in the coffee shops and comments from assorted newspapers and political scientists.

While everyone was on the look-out for possible new faces making it onto the supreme council as new warlords supporting the fresh administration, one interesting comment made recently seemed to have gone unnoticed by the whole of PBB’s Pesaka wing.

The comment that the next person taking over from Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg as Chief Minister after he retires will not be his most senior deputy-in-chief but a deputy of a lesser seniority within PBB, would have probably irked the Dayak community years ago.

The demeaning statement made a few days ago, practically went by without as much as a whimper of protest. The unfounded statement was accompanied by four continuous days of silence instead of four continuous day of rebuttals.

All Malaysians know that Sarawak has had two Dayak Chief Ministers — Tan Sri Datuk Amar Kalong Ningkan in 1963 and Dato Sri Penghulu Tawi Sli in 1966. During the formation of PBB, the party President was none other than the late Temenggong Jugah Barieng, a Dayak from the Pesaka wing. The ‘fact’ that ‘Dayak cannot be the Chief Minister of Sarawak’ was therefore never etched in stone.

The earlier statement made a few days ago by an associate professor with a local university who is also a political scientist was a high-handed one, based on the assumption that only a Bumiputera wing Deputy President could be the next President of PBB.

The ‘assumed superiority’ of a Bumiputera wing Deputy President over a Dayak Deputy President, if not rebutted, could be misconstrued as a form of consent by Dayak in general to be dominated by Bumiputera politically.

The failure of Pesaka and its members in defending the integrity of their Chieftain after four days, speaks volumes. As the most senior Deputy President second to only the Chief Minister himself, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah’s silence can only be interpreted that he is ready to be overlooked, and has no qualms that the position of Chief Minister be passed on to a man more junior in terms of party seniority.

Previously such a high-handed remark would have been met with criticisms. The fighting spirit within the idea of ‘agi hidup, agi ngelaban’ (as long as we live, we fight) would not have allowed their Dayak Chieftain be belittled by a political scientist. The Pesaka supporters would have treated this as an insult to their Chieftain. They would have made a racket in trying to safeguard the Dayaks’ position as equals within the party.

While reading this, it is inevitable that some learned Dayaks will put the blame on the fragmented state of Dayak political parties in Sarawak, which has weakened the Dayaks’ strength and resulted in what’s happening today.

However, simple-minded Dayaks when told only asked a simple question: why is the Pesaka Chieftain silent on the matter when the demeaning comment was a direct insult to him? To add salt to injury, the statement was splashed on the first page of a printed publication, bared for all to see.

It has been four days since the presumptuous statement made by the political scientist was published. However, for some unknown reasons, the demeaning statement was not disputed nor rebutted.

As far as any known record shows, no public announcement nor new resolution was passed by PBB which could have disqualified a Dayak from becoming the next party President. Unless of course, Chieftain Uggah and the political scientist know something that we don’t know? — DayakDaily