Family of man who died from hornet attack left distraught as body ‘snatched’ by Jais and buried

A supplied photo showing the funeral ceremony of Hardy whose body was alleged to have been forcibly taken by Jais against his family's wishes.

KUCHING, Nov 4: The grieving family of a Samarahan man who recently died after being stung by hornets were left distraught when his remains were allegedly forcibly taken from their home during the wake by the Sarawak Islamic Religions Department (Jais) and buried according to Islamic rites as he was believed to be a ‘Muslim convert’.

The late 42-year-old Hardy Edwin Lunggan, a civil servant, was attacked by hornets when working at a site in Sebuyau on Oct 23. He died on the way to Simunjan Hospital. His body was released to his mother, wife, and children after a post-mortem on Oct 27.

According to social and human rights activist Peter John Jaban, six members of Jais came to the house the following day and seized the body forcibly as they were preparing to bury him according to the Dayak customs and traditions, which was the will of the deceased.

“All the family could do was follow behind as they watched their loved one interred in a Muslim cemetery at Kpg Sg Berangan in Kota Samarahan, far away from his ancestral graveyard where all other members of his family and ethnic group are buried,” he said in a statement today.

Furious over the “horrific intrusion” and the manner of Jais in handling the matter, Peter John, who is also the deputy secretary for the Global Human Rights Federation, called on political representatives to look into this case to ensure that no other family in Sarawak will ever be subjected to the same agony.

He slammed that this is another example of the misery caused by forced conversion on marriage and of cruel administrative overreach by both Jais and the National Registration Department (NRD).

“Jais asserted their power and authority over the body because of the short-lived second marriage between Hardy and a Muslim woman between 2005 and 2008, which resulted in the birth of one child. Following the divorce, Hardy chose to settle with a Dayak woman from Kapit, Olivia Liah Baling, staying together happily for almost 10 years until his untimely demise,” he said.

A supplied photo of family members watching from a distance as Hardy’s body was interred in a Muslim cemetery.

Noting that the law in Malaysia requires conversion on marriage to a Muslim, regardless of faith or practice, Peter John, however, disclosed that the letter to force Hardy’s conversion did not reach him until Feb 10, 2014, nine years after his marriage to a Muslim and six years after his divorce.

He added that the letter demanded that he change his Dayak name and religious affiliation with NRD. However, Hardy chose not to do so; therefore, his original death certificate and all his documents still reflect his birth and ancestral identity.

“The law is clear. He should convert. But it is an administrative failure.

“Now the family are unable to collect his NRD death certificate as Federal government agencies have stonewalled them. So, unable to move on or to grieve, they must spend their days instead in anger and reprisals against the government and its ‘religious authorities’,” he said.

Describing Jais’ action as “graverobbing and a desecration of the dead”, Peter John said this is not a matter of faith but politics and control where people in Malaysia now face the appalling reality that even their earthly remains are under the dominion of the State.

“In what civilised country should six junior-level employees of a government agency with no religious standing be allowed to decide matters of this kind and in such a cruel and unusual manner?

“Will we in Sarawak, a non-Muslim majority State, really continue to allow forced Islamisation when the indigenous population whose culture and identity are already under threat from globalisation?” he questioned.

While Sarawak has been calling for greater autonomy and recognition of Sarawak’s individuality, Peter John viewed this as a cornerstone policy for Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

“Once you have wiped out the Dayak culture entirely, what will the unique Sarawak identity be then? We will be no different from West Malaysia,” he added. — DayakDaily