Two headmen in a longhouse will break Dayak community into pieces

File photo of Snowdan addressing an event.

KUCHING, Sept 17: Having two headmen in one longhouse will further fragment the Dayak community, said Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) Youth chief Datuk Snowdan Lawan.

He was commenting on Deputy Minister of Rural Development Sivarasa Rasiah’s statement that the federal government will appoint their own community leaders and sign their letters of appointment starting January next year.

“Now they (federal government) are infiltrating into the jurisdictions and heart of our society, the community leaders, tuai rumah and the penghulu who are paid allowances by the state since the Barisan Nasional (BN)’s days,” he said in a press statement issued today.

“It is ridiculous that the federal government wishes to become another authority on matters concerning state jurisdictions, i.e. the appointment of community leaders which is closely tied to the local adat (customs) of which people like Sivarasa has little or no knowledge about,” he added.

Snowdan described the move as some kind of encroachment and thus advised Sivarasa to “not cross the line”, especially considering the implications in the event of a dispute.

“Whose decisions would prevail? Has Sivarasa asked himself this question? I even doubt his understanding on our customs and traditions,” he lashed out.

“How often has he visited a longhouse let alone understand their way of life such as ‘nganchau tikai ba ruai tuai rumah’ (disturbing the mat at tuai rumah’s veranda) and the message that entails,” he questioned.

According to the Balai Ringin assemblyman, Sarawak has an established system and the standard operating procedure (SOP) in respect to the appointment of community leaders where the longhouse headmen were elected by the residents and longhouse dwellers.

“The papers, the minutes of meeting are then processed by the district offices and endorsed by the state government. The SOP and guidelines are precise on this, why change?,” he asked.

Snowdan, who is also Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports, stressed that village headmen have been effective in their routine and undertaking thus far.

“Changing it by name only from Village Security and Development Committee (JKKK) to Village Community Management Councils (MPKK) may not necessarily be ideal for Sarawak due to its demographic and customs structure. We don’t want chaos,” he emphasised.

He pointed out that the proposal clearly showed the federal government’s intention to infiltrate into the community and Sarawak’s affairs by ignoring local customs and traditions in the appointment of community leaders.

“Their intention is to weaken our unity by breaking our community apart. Their strategy is firstly to divide and at the same time rule us. Already the native customary right (NCR) verdict is a blunder by those who are ignorance of our customs and traditions,” he said.

He thus urged Sivarasa to retract the proposal.— DayakDaily