Unbalanced representation at PMPG conference, claim NGO reps

File photo of Peter John Jaban (left).

KUCHING, Jan 25: Representatives from Borneo Indigenous People’s Pact (BIPP) and the international organisation Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) were barred from attending the Conference for Community Leaders on Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau (PMPG) yesterday.

After Bill Jugah from BIPP and Peter John Jaban from IMPMSDL were refused entry, both sneaked in and attended the session anyway.

The two thus questioned why the state-sponsored conference on native customary rights (NCR) land was only opened to government community leaders through the Resident’s Office, namely the Penghulu, Pemanca, Temenggong and Tuai Rumah.

“The NGOs are now asking for the invitation base to be broadened so that the participants can listen to a full range of ideas and expertise.

“Only then can proper debate be stimulated on this thorny and as yet unsettled issue and finding a comprehensive solution that is satisfactory to all parties and stakeholders and not just to the State Government, be possible,” said Peter John in a statement today.

Peter John, formerly a long-time staff member with the Land and Survey Department who has also worked with an NGO for ten years, had wanted to attend the conference in his capacity as representative from IPMSDL.

“We only wanted to listen in to the presentation since PMPG is a subject very close to our hearts and perhaps to share our views in the question-and-answer session.

“But yesterday morning, we were not allowed to enter and were informed that people whose names were not on the register were barred from doing so.

“While we applaud the initiative, this is not a forum held in a spirit of transparency and cooperation. So far, no one has been able to propose a workable solution to the land issues plaguing Sarawak.

“If the same people listen to the same advice and information all the time, it is no wonder that they can only come up with the same flawed policies which have singularly failed to address the issues over the last 30 years,” said Peter John.

He believed that there would be no progress if a range of views were not represented.

“I am also a community leader of sorts, even though I am not appointed by the government! Why was I not even allowed to listen?

“In fact, my case is of small importance. Why were representatives of NGOs and associations like SADIA (Sarawak Dayak Iban Association) and others who champion NCR and land issues not present?

“There were so many truly vital community leaders who were not even invited to attend, let alone to speak,” said Peter John.

He said personas like Datuk Edmund Langgu, Prof Dimbab, Sidi Munan, and Nicholas Bawin were notable in their absence.

“In fact, there are numerous historians and specialists, both national and international, who are highly knowledgeable in the ‘adat’ (customs), history, law and many other aspects that define the existence of the indigenous people of Sarawak who were all absent.

“Lopsided attendance will only ever provide a lopsided response to the issues at hand,” he said.

He added that the livelihood, future and lives of the indigenous people of Sarawak were at stake.

“We demand that another forum be held soonest and, this time, concerned NGOs and associations representing all the indigenous communities must be present along with these community leaders.”\

“Only then can the debate truly represent the multiple views and needs seen in the state. Only then can community leaders give the full and correct picture on PMPG to their communities. Only then can the ‘adat’, such an important and unique aspect of Sarawak life, be preserved as it should be for generations to come,” said Peter John. — DayakDaily