Return rights of villagers to choose their own headmen, Dayak party urges the government

PBDS Baru President Cobbold John Lusoi —

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KUCHING: Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDSB) has urged the state government to return the the rights of the villagers to choose their own respective community leaders, especially their headmen.

Its president Cobbold John said there are many Dayaks today, who are academically qualified and having the knowledge, to be candidates for the headmen.

“The cabinet should approve such rights to the villagers to choose their preferred candidates,” he said when reacting to Utilities Minister Datuk Dr Stephen Rundie Utom’s suggestion recently.

Rundie, who is also state Barisan Nasional secretary general, had said that the state government was looking to see if the qualifications of longhouse and village chiefs could be standardised by the Resident’s Offices.

Cobbold said PBDSB wants the rural communities to elect their own chieftains or community leaders to replace the current practice of selection by state assemblymen.

He said it should be the rights of the villagers to choose their own candidate as chieftains or community leaders.

“Village chieftains should be chosen by the people, for the people and to the people and without any biased influences,” he said, adding that it has been a culture and custom for Dayak community, for example, to choose their own headmen since the old days.

“But it seems like politics had changed such circumstances which relies on ministers to appoint for the people, their village chieftains instead,” he said, adding that it is an inevitable facts and reality for rural Dayak community today that village chieftains like Temenggong, Penghulu, Pemancha and even Tuai Rumah, are being indirectly and directly chosen by those in authorities to decide instead of the people.

He said many issues had cropped up after the government changed the system in appointing the village chieftains.

Cobbold said when politics creeps into the system of appointing village chieftains, longhouses and villages will break up because of the disagreement.

“It is also not right to have a non Dayak chieftain or “kapitan” to lead the community, especially when there is a political interests involvement.

“The Resident’s Offices should indeed act as a neutral platform for every election of varieties of chieftain candidates, whereby the names of such candidates should be from the people themselves,” he said, adding that based on a Dayak culture and customs, an elected leader such as chieftain, should not be biased towards any issue regardless political or non political.

“It is important to have a community leader who is a fair, just, transparent, as well as being neutral and firm by advising the people what they want and what they need to develop their own village,” Cobbold said.

Pemancha Wilson Siang of Miri also expressed his concern over the involvement of politicians in selecting headmen and he suggested that the Iban community leaders be appointed by the Resident’s Offices. –