Saban, Lakiput and Berawan now recognised as Sarawak natives by law

Dennis (left) and Gerawat address the august House during the debate on the Interpretation (Amendment) Bill in the DUN sitting today (Feb 15, 2022).

By Nur Ashikin Louis

KUCHING, Feb 15: The long wait is over for three Orang Ulu sub-ethnicities, namely the Saban, Lakiput and Berawan after the State government passed a constitutional amendment to include the communities as natives of Sarawak under the State list today.

Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau thanked the State government for tabling the proposed amendment to Interpretation Ordinance 2005 that will include the three Orang Ulu sub-ethnicities in the new list of natives of Sarawak.

He said the various sub-ethnicities in the Orang Ulu community are presently grouped under an umbrella body called the Federation of Orang Ulu Associations Malaysia (Forum).

Forum has a representation of nine Orang Ulu sub-ethnic groups namely, Kayan, Kenyah, Bisaya, Kelabit, Penan, Lun Bawang, Berawan, Lakiput and Saban.

“However, all this while, three of these (Berawan, Lakiput and Saban) were not included (as natives) in the State list.

“Thus, I wish to thank both the Federal and State governments for including these three ethnic groups in the State list.

“This will definitely put to rest to some uncertainties among Orang Ulu who are grouped under these sub-ethnicities,” he said when addressing the august House during the debate on the amendment Bill in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) complex here today.

Meanwhile, Mulu assemblyman Datuk Gerawat Gala gave assurance that the Interpretation (Amendment) Bill will not confer native status on non-Sarawakians including Malays from West Malaysia or Sabah.

He said the proposed amendment does not in any way weigh on the possibility of West Malaysians being included as natives.

“West Malaysians are not entitled to buy or acquire native land in Sarawak.

“This shows that they are not natives of Sarawak as shown on their national identity cards,” he said in response to Padungan assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen’s query on the possibility of native status being given to non-Sarawakians if the Bill was to be passed.

Gerawat who is also the Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Labour, Immigration and Project Monitoring) further said that the amendment was consistent with the constitutional provision granting certain privileges to the natives of Sarawak and Sabah.

He believed the amendment would allow children of mixed marriages who have felt deprived of their native inheritance all this while, to have their grievances addressed and to have an avenue to be recognised as natives.

He also said the proposed amendment to the definition of ‘native of Sarawak’ under the Interpretation Ordinance 2005 was consequential to the recent amendment to Article 161A(6) and 161A(7) of the Federal Constitution.

Previously, there were 20 indigenous races listed in Article 161A(7) as natives of Sarawak and under Article 161A(6) only a person of mixed blood deriving exclusively from those natives can deemed a native.

In other words, a person of mixed blood where only one parent is a native did not qualify to be a native. This has caused a lot of unhappiness among parents and children where only one of their parent is a native.

Additionally, the amendment to Article 161A(6) and 161A(7) essentially transferred the constitutional authority to determine who are natives of Sarawak from Parliament to Sarawak, which is part of Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s (GPS) effort to pursue State autonomy. — DayakDaily