NGOs challenge Talib to ‘open live debate’ on state civil service composition

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Nov 15: Members of the Dayak Round Table (DRT) and 722 Sarawak Independence Day Group today challenged Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Integrity and Ombudsman) Datuk Talib Zulpilip to an “open live debate” as they disagreed with his recent statement that the composition of the state civil service was based on meritocracy.

Spokesperson Alim Mideh told a press conference that: “YB Talib is to answer if he would take up our challenge or not within 14 days from today, now that we have taken up his challenge.

“And if he does, we will meet him to discuss the date, venue, crowd composition, format of debate and other matters of interest to hold the debate.”

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Alim was responding to a news report in the DayakDaily on Monday (Nov 12) regarding the composition of the Sarawak state civil service in which Talib said it was based on meritocracy and not as per posts on social media. Talib challenged those who disagreed with it to come up with facts and statistics.

The proposed debate, Alim reckoned, would be important and useful for the betterment and improvement of the state.

DRT member Lenon Atat, who was also present at the press conference, also voiced his disagreement that the state civil service practised meritocracy. He said what Talib said was “unacceptable and very much questionable”.

“Where is the fairness and (it is) for him to justify the matter,” he said while pointing out that the Dayak National Convention held on Sept 17 this year at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) and attended by over 1,500 Dayak participants from various parts of Sarawak, had deliberated on this topic.

“To us, no single race should dominate the civil service in our multiracial society. Where is the national unity or would I say that one supremacy. To me, we have to come clear on this matter,” he stressed.

Lenon added that living in an intellectual society, all races should be given equal opportunity. Hence, the general public should be aware of the current practice of the current government on its so-called meritocracy.

Alim (seated, centre), flanked by Lenon on his left and Wilfred, and other members pose for a photo after the press conference.

On the facts and statistics in hand to stand their ground, Alim claimed they have them but would not give it to Talib’s office out of concern that they might get “swept under the carpet”.

“We will give it to him during an open live debate and with a crowd,” he said.

Lenon chipped in and shared that the facts and statistics were even presented and shared with participants during the last Dayak National Convention, with no dispute over the matter.

Another member, Wilfred Kutu Linau, reminded that the convention was attended by intellectuals and professionals and their significance should not be undermined or belittled.

“The Dayaks of a long time ago was not a thinking race (bangsa yang tidak berfikir). But now, we are starting to think critically, and that’s what the convention was all about.

“All the injustices went on for too long and everyone knows it. Just because we do not have power, without the law. It is only when we are powerful that we are the law. The law is only for the powerful people,” he added.

But what if Talib does not accept the challenge?

Lenon replied: “Make sure to tell us his decision whether he accepts the challenge or not so we know.”

Alim opined that if Talib refused to take up the challenge, it would say a lot about him as a person and the fact that he might not know what he was talking about.

“If he speaks of the meritocracy according to the definition in the dictionary, YB Talib clearly implies that the Dayaks and Chinese are more stupid than the Malays and Melanaus.

“Be mindful also that when he talked about meritocracy, how does the system of meritocracy (works) in the context of the state government? We would like to hear how does the system works for all races. It has to be very clear,” said Lenon.

As a responsible minister, the group urged Talib to be accountable for his words as he is answerable to the people.

While they would not force Talib to accept the challenge, Lenon, however, opined it would be better to publicly deliberate and discuss the definition of meritocracy as well as to present the truth with facts and figures. — DayakDaily