By Jaythaleela K
MIRI, Dec 18: Sarawak government should not be using public funds for private purposes, said DAP-Pujut Assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon.
He claimed that the Dayak community was perplexed by the state government’s financial support for the establishment of the “Tan Sri Empiang Jabu Research Chair In Dayak Women Studies” at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
“We understand that the state government gave several million ringgit towards the Chair. While we do not object to public funding for research and for our universities, in this case, there are several questions that needs to be asked.
“First, under what criteria was this approved? If the issue is to honour a great political leader who has really contributed to Sarawak, isn’t it obvious the Chair that should be established should be one named after Stephen Kalong Ningkan, the first Iban chief minister?”
Dr Ting reasoned that the late Ningkan deserved more recognition for his role in defending the interests of the state, including causing the then federal government to intervene and remove him from the chief ministership because he did not agree to federal interference.
“Second, the chair is named after a living individual with substantial financial resources. This individual’s family is tied closely with PBB and one wonders if politics is the main criteria for the eagerness of the state government to support this Chair.
“Third, the organisation supporting the Chair, Sarakup Indu Dayak Sarawak (SIDS), while supposedly promoting Dayak women, is ‘all quiet’ when the first chair is a man. Are there no worthy and qualified Dayak women professors who can hold the inaugural Chair?”
Dr Ting was referring to Prof Dr Jayum Jawan who became the inaugural chair on Nov 1 this year and will go on to hold it for the next three years.
“Finally, isn’t it obvious that there are a lot of more pressing issues facing the Dayak community, such as the hazard of fires in the longhouses and longhouse children needing money to pay for their school fees? Instead of spending millions on research which does not help alleviate the difficulties of day-to-day living of the Dayaks.
“Why don’t the state government use the same millions to set up a scholarship for poor rural Dayak students? It will benefit thousands of Dayak children, rather than a single university. One wonders if the money is all about helping to create a political dynasty and promoting the name in academia.”
“I am all for scholarship and education, but everything must be done in context. This Empiang Jabu Chair is nothing more than a prestige project using public funds with no returns to the wider Dayak community,” he pointed out.
The priority of the state government when it comes to the Dayak community should be to look after the education of the next generation, not giving millions of ringgit to a Chair to promote a single family, Ting added.
“If this trend is not stopped, then every GPS political leader in Sarawak will, sooner or later, get their own Chair at a university at the public’s expense,” he explained.
“I hope the Dayak intelligentsia will speak out on this issue. If they remain silent, then one can only conclude that the educated Dayak elite is all for this sort of nonsense,” he said.—DayakDaily