Time to have a ‘Minister of Dayak Longhouses’?

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KUCHING, July 26: Sarawak Workers Party (SWP) has proposed the setting up of a new state ministry to look after Dayak longhouses and its people.

Its president, Munan Laja, who made the proposal, said the whole idea was to ensure longhouses in the state remained sustainable and where its residents could live in a healthy environment.

“I believe it is worthwhile to set up such a ministry as there are some 4,500 longhouses in the state. Longhouses are a distinctive feature of tribal tradition. They are simple yet beautiful; a way of life that remains strong in the face of modernisation.

“So, it is important to study the existing traditional longhouses to determine the traditional building elements that are still around,” he said.

He cautioned that if nothing were done now, most of the longhouses would be abandoned 10 years from now.

In addition, he claimed the existence of longhouse dwellers were threatened by the logging and plantation industries, causing the Ibans and other tribes to frequently erect blockades to protect their natural resources.

“In many Iban longhouses, you will find only old folks and young children. The community is reduced to an exhausted past and an uncertain future. Many young people have moved to the towns for better job opportunities.

“Without our younger generation to inherit their rich cultural legacies, traditions will slowly die. Even the whole oral tradition of telling tales and myths is disappearing,” lamented Munan.

He argued that since longhouse dwellers had always been strong supporters of the Barisan Nasional (BN), and now Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), it was the responsibility of the government of the day to ensure existing longhouses would never vanish.

“Dayaks believe in working hard to survive … and to survive well. But we also hope the government will help us rebuild our community by providing the necessary infrastructure.

“We, in SWP, seek all Dayak assemblymen to think of something bigger for their community and not just hand out minor rural project (MPR) grants as and when they deem necessary.” — DayakDaily