Of pork, booze and the Dayak dilemma

Tan Sri Stephen Kalong Ningkan, the first Chief Minister of Sarawak.


THE first Dayak National Convention (DNC) since the change of federal government concluded recently with a 15-point resolution addressed to the state and the federal governments.

Looking through the points that were drafted during the one-day convention on Sept 17, there was nothing new. Every year, resolutions after resolutions were drafted by the Dayak NGOs and forwarded to the government, and all the replies they got were “we will see”, claimed DNC chairman Patrick Sibat Sujang.

The Dayaks do get their fair share of representation in the state government, and some in Putrajaya. However, the community could not fully trust them, for there are claims of being marginalised by “unseen hands” that led to cracks in the Dayak’s political leadership and fragmentation of its people.

“Just give them some pork and some crates of beer and booze, they will be happy” is what most politicians would say.

This, coupled with the fragmented community, has further made it more difficult to unite the Dayaks. It is a “curse” of sorts that had blighted the community since day one.

When Sarawak helped formed the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, an Iban, Tun Jugah Barieng, tried to become Sarawak’s first Governor (TYT) while Tan Sri Stephen Kalong Ningkan, also an Iban, was appointed the state’s first chief minister. Tun Jugah did not become the TYT because Tun Abang Openg Abang Sapiee was appointed instead.

Three years later, Ningkan was ousted when half of the state’s assemblymen at the time (21 out of 42) voted a motion of no confidence against him. It was said that this was because Ningkan tried to initiate a land reform law that allowed the natives to acquire full title of Native Customary Rights (NCR) land, much to the resentment of the then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.

It was even claimed that Tunku Abdul Rahman, through the federal government, backed the 21 assemblymen to pressure Ningkan to resign as the state’s chief executive.

Since then till 1970, the chief minister’s post changed hands to Dato Sri Tawi Sli before Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’kub became the third chief minister. Since then, no Dayaks have become a chief minister or a TYT.

Since then, a lot had happened in the Dayak political scene, which included the formation of Sarawak National Party (SNAP), Sarawak’s first multiracial political party that saw some share of its glory days between the 60s and 80s.

Again, the fall of the party, which was predominantly Dayak, was said to have been caused by “unseen hands” that prevented that the Barisan Nasional (BN) component at the time from having top posts in the state cabinet.

This, together with internal rifts that was again allegedly initiated by the same “unseen hands”, saw the party suffering a slow death: It was deregistered in 2013.

Over time, one would have learned his or her lessons and would strive to do things better next time, but not the Dayaks.

Finger-pointing continues to ensue till now, and wrestling for who should become the “paramount chief” continues — ‘ego Dayak’, as one might call it, while those holding top posts watch over at the sidelines counting their “blessings” (while they still can).

That being said, the Dayaks need to get their act together first before even thinking of having a good leader. This is because at this point in time, no matter who you put up there to lead the Dayaks as the “Rajah” or “paramount chief”, nobody seems to see eye-to-eye.

Sure some 2,000 people who attended the DNC applauded the idea of forming a new multiracial Dayak-based political party, but what about the other existing Dayak-based parties?

By now, forming a new party — be it racial or multiracial — would be irrelevant and redundant because the Dayaks would not agree unanimously on who will lead it.

That being the case, there is virtually nobody to take care of the Dayaks but themselves. Unless the individual Dayaks themselves do something about it, the community would find it hard to move forward.

Asking and requesting for free handouts alone won’t be enough in the long run. Same goes for receiving some “pork and booze”.

The Dayaks should get up on their own two feet and work and strive to achieve what they want. If they cannot do it alone, by all means work with others to achieve it. Just don’t depend totally on them.

You can shout all you want or suggest or propose all the ideas you got in the name of Dayak development, but if you don’t take some steps forward or make some sacrifices, nothing will change. — DayakDaily