Dayak Forum Spawns United Dayak Declaration Project

Last weekends’s Dayak Community Conference in Miri brought together leaders from across the Sarawak and Sabah interior communities, who are now working on a slate of demands to bring justice to the abandoned indigenous populations.

The key demands were Local Autonomy, a Dayak Development Fund, a Justice & Reparations Commission, and an Indigenous Council to scrutinise public projects involving state and NCR land areas.

The over-riding principle agreed was that the mass of extraction and construction projects currently being touted by the state government (now flush with oil money) must first be determined as beneficial to the wider public and indigenous people and then ensure a fair and guaranteed distribution of those benefits to local communities.

The existing funds already available in state coffers should also be dispensed with the priority to uplift the long-neglected Dayak areas.

Senior figures at the conference included the veteran pro-indigenous rights politicians Harrison Ngau, Roland Engan of PKR, DAP’s Miri MP Chiew Choon Man and Dr John Brian Anthony of the newly formed Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) along with several spokespeople from civil rights groups.

Over two days speaker panels, which included community representatives and headmen, reviewed the history of exploitation and flawed representation of isolated native communities whose lands have been subject to massive extraction in return for failed promises of prosperity and development.

A working party is now collaborating on a slate of demands to be presented at grass roots level across the state as a challenge to those who seek to represent Dayak communities or to govern the state.

Sarawak Report has learned that this draft Dayak Declaration of demands includes:

    • An annual RM 1 billion federal allocation to the Dayak Development Fund to be matched by the State Government and subject to annual review.
    • ⁠The formal adoption of UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous  Peoples) principles on all matters and legislation involving Dayak and indigenous communities.
    • Local Autonomy, bringing an end to political interference in tribal leader appointments.
    • Salary increases for village and tribal heads and increased allocations  for local councils
    • The Establishment of the Sarawak Dayak Custom Council (MADAS) to ensure ⁠Recognition and respect for Dayak culture and traditional rights.
    • The Creation of an Indigenous Council to oversee state projects on customary land and to ensure the inclusion of direct benefit programs in state projects on customary land.
    • To set up a Justice Commission to review compensation for historical injustices faced by Dayak and Orang Asal communities
    • Full Transparency in state licensing and contracts.
    • Legal aid for traditional communities to defend their rights.
    • Reform of police procedures regarding rights violations.
    • Ensure free and fair elections and combating corruption in the conduct of elections.
  • Create an Environmental Enforcement Unit to combat illegal logging and encroachments on public and customary lands.

Sarawak Report will be following the progress of this programme which it is being speculated will be officially adopted by reform parties in advance of the next elections.

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