The pro-tem committee of the Malaysian Dayak Congress (MDC) is “disappointed” that the community’s representatives were not invited to a briefing on the plight of Indian Malaysians, held at the House of Lords in London on Dec 8.
Sandip Verma, a member of the House of Lords and the Conservative Party’s shadow minister of education, had hosted the briefing organised by Friends of Minority Communities in Malaysia.
“It is sad that Malaysian Dayaks were not invited to attend the briefing even though we had written a letter to the British High Commission,” said pro-tem information chief Joseph Tawie, writing today in his blogspot ‘thebrokenshield’.
“After all, the plight of the Dayaks and Indians is almost the same.”
Copies of MDC’s letter, dated Oct 18, 2007, were sent to foreign affairs minister, home minister, Registrar of Societies and the US Embassy.
It alleged gross injustice and discrimination by the authorities against the Dayaks, who were British subjects before Sarawak, Sabah, Singapore and Malaya formed the federation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.
“Our letter was apparently ignored because we did not organise strikes [sic] to highlight our problems, as the Indians did, or (because) we were/are a coward lot, or (because) we have become irrelevant,’ Tawie wrote.
He was referring to an unprecedented street protest in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 25 last year, as Indian Malaysians gathered to support the handing over of a memorandum to the British High Commission, by leaders of the since-banned Hindu Rights Action Force.
Tawie said that, although the Dayaks had missed the briefing, they are hopeful that another briefing can be called specifically to hear their grouses.
In this respect, MDC would like the High Commission to arrange for the pro-tem committee to meet any of its officials in Kuala Lumpur or a British leader or MP, so that the predicament of the community can be explained.
‘Discrimination against Dayaks’
Tawie produced excerpts of the MDC letter, edited here for language:
“We feel that we have the right to bring (our plight) to the attention of Her Majesty’s government, as our former colonial masters, hoping that Her Majesty can advise the Malaysian authorities to accord the Dayak community the privileges and rights as enshrined in the Inter-Governmental Committee report and the Malaysia Agreement.
“Our customary rights over land, with the passing of amendments to the Land Code, have been taken away and are being given to rich businessmen or companies under the guise of Provisional Lease for the cultivation of oil palm on a big scale.
“While other communities have progressed by leaps and bounds, the Dayaks have remained mired in the doldrums of poverty, little better, if at all, as they had been under the British tutelage.
“There is a difference. While the British government guaranteed the rights to land held under customary laws, in our present situation, the opposite seems to operate adversely against the Dayak community.
“As if this discrimination is not enough, the Dayaks are not even allowed to form (their own) party to articulate their political, educational, cultural, economic and social aspirations.
“Whatever Dayak-based parties they were in the past are being deregistered one by one – first the authorities deregistered Sarawak National Party and then Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS), both on flimsiest reasons.
“The Dayaks, who (make up) about 60 percent of the state population are encouraged to be members of every political party by the (Barisan Nasional) leaders. This is a subtle way (to) ‘divide and rule’ community.
“Following the deregistration of PBDS in October 2004, some ex-members on May 6, 2005 submitted an application to register MDC.
“After more than one year, the application was rejected by the Registrar of Societies on July 19, 2006 under Article 7(3) of the Societies Act, giving the reason that MDC would be a potential threat to national security.
“It is in this light that we the pro-tem committee members and Dayak community who were once Her Majesty’s subjects appeal to Her Majesty’s government to put pressure on the Malaysian government.”