Minister: Sarawak’s ‘adat’ practices becoming irrelevant due to conflicts with Christian teachings

Dancers dressed in traditional attire celebrating Gawai Dayak in this file photo.

By Nur Ashikin Louis

KUCHING, May 22: Sarawak’s ‘adat’ (custom) practices, especially those derived from spiritual sanctions or prohibitions, may soon become irrelevant as some natives find them conflicting with Christian teachings.

Minister in the Premier’s Department Datuk John Sikie Tayai said in some extreme cases, any object, such as the antique vases, which had motifs deemed to symbolise ‘Satan’, were destroyed.


“There is an ongoing conflict between Christian teachings and some ‘adat’, especially those derived from spiritual sanctions or prohibitions. Those ‘adat’ are expressed as ‘Dos and Don’t’—’Pantang Larang Penti Pemali’.

“The spiritual association and implication of those ‘adat’ are against some Christian teachings. Therefore, this practice of ‘adat’ is not well received by many natives who are Christians.

“As such, these ‘adat’ are commonly dismissed as supposititious or irrelevant. This has led to the diminishing relevance or abandonment of the ‘adat’ among the Christian natives,” he said when presenting his ministerial winding-up speech at Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here today.

He also mentioned that other social situations that challenged the relevance of ‘adat’ in the native communities are the rural-urban migration which may lead to property and land disputes, as well as the acceptance and understanding of ‘adat’ among the younger generation of natives, which is diminishing.

Following this, Sikie said the Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak (MAIS) has embarked on reviewing and amending the seven codified ‘adat’.

At the same time, he said there are five ‘adat’ that is going through the process of drafting and vetting, namely Adet Melanau, Adet Kajang, Adet Kiput, Adet Berawan and Adet Bagatan. — DayakDaily