‘Some community leaders not well-versed on PMPG issues’

From right: Bill and Peter John were barred from attending the Conference for Community Leaders on PMPG, held on Jan 24 and 25 at a hotel in Kuching.

KUCHING, Jan 25: Human rights activist Bill Jugah laments about the lack of knowledge of some community leaders on Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau (PMPG) issues.

Bill, who is a representative from Borneo Indigenous People’s Pact (BIPP), was barred from attending the Conference for Community Leaders on PMPG together with Peter John Jaban of Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), expressed his disappointment over some community leaders attending the conference.

“Some of these penghulu, temenggong and pemanca are ill-prepared for a conference of this scope. Many do not have the necessary knowledge of their own history and ‘adat’ (customs).

“Gone are the days when community leaders were chosen by the communities themselves for their prowess in these fields, as was the case in the past.

“What we see now is a roomful of community leaders, whose criteria for appointment are known only to the state government, who are unable even to produce quality questions for the speakers, let alone to debunk any historically erroneous data presented,” said Bill who sneaked in to attend the conference.

He also lamented that some community leaders were apparently not invited.

“Even worse, it would appear that official invitations did not even cover the full range of these government appointees as some Tuai Rumah claimed to have been left off the list.

“NGO representatives like myself and Peter were forced to sneak in to the presentation like thieves in our own backyard. The scene was disappointing, to say the least, despite some excellent presentations and some spirited debate,” he said.

Bill also remarked that many vastly experienced professionals in the field, including high-ranking academics, a former minister and even the former Deputy Director of Majlis Adat Istiadat, whose expertise could have been crucial during the question-and-answer session, were notably absent from the list of invited guests.

“For example, statements containing inaccurate information were presented by Sanib Said, though thankfully this was quickly rebutted by (Deputy Minister of Rural and Regional Development) Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi and (Deputy Chief Minister) Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, who were present at that time.

“Thankfully these two figures were there or else the participants might have been seriously misled.

“Unfortunately, much of the proceedings might have been poorly received by the audience.

“While we applaud Dr Ramy Bulan on her presentation regarding the various sections in the Sarawak Land Code, we also worry that much of the information was missed by community leaders who have minimal grounding in legal terminology.

“Many errors and misconceptions surrounding land issues beg debunking in proper debate so as to prevent forum participants from cascading erroneous information to their rakyat and ‘anembiak’,” said Bill.

He noted that there were a number of young and untested state assemblymen in the audience and he believed that they needed to absorb a full range of information on PMPG so that they could properly represent their constituents.

“For many years, the sharing of the ‘adat’ of Sarawak has been stifled in the state.

“For example, some younger people in the state are not even aware of how the boundaries of PMPG are demarcated according to the ‘adat’ by streams, peaks, valleys and, where appropriate, planted stands of bamboo.

“Sadly the inter-generational links have been smashed by the new system of appointment of community leaders and by rural-urban migration, caused in a large part by the copious land issues.

“Thus, elderly statesmen with their vast experience in the field cannot be left off a guest list for this type of forum,” said Bill.

He called for any future forums to be expanded so that a comprehensive and appropriate solution can be found.

“These forums will only be able to find a suitable way forward if all stakeholders are represented,” he said. — DayakDaily