KUCHING: The recent announcement by Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud of a special programme to develop the Dayak community should be sweet music to the Ibans, Bidayuhs and Orang Ulus.
Bung Bratak Heritage Association (BBHA) chairman Dato Peter Minos said the Dayaks indeed needed a government push for them to catch up with the other communities.
“Many Dayaks who have education and skills are either in the civil service or in private sector. Very few are doing businesses. Of that few, only a handful has gone quite far, and the rest are struggling.
“Thus, there is merit when the chief minister said the Dayaks needed help in education and the economy,” said Minos.
He added that many factors involving history, environment, political disunity and cultural impediments had caused the Dayaks to be left behind.
“The government has tried (to help) since 1963, but 50 years of efforts have not really worked.”
Chairing a special cabinet meeting on July 22, Taib announced the State Cabinet had decided to constitute a special programme to develop the Dayak community.
He acknowledged that since Independence, Dayaks in the state had been left behind.
“We want to help the Dayaks as over the years they have shown they are willing to work together with their leaders in the government, and also try to reorganise their assets,” Taib had said.
Crediting deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu for bringing up the issue to the attention of the cabinet, Taib, however, did not divulge details of the special programme nor when it would be implemented.
Minos, who formerly heads the Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA), said the many Malaysia development plans and aid for Bumiputeras under the New Economic Policy (NEP) had somehow eluded the Dayaks.
“They (Dayaks) somehow missed the boat. Thus, it is opportune for CM to say and see what went wrong in the last 50 years and map out what the government can do in the next 50 years …with positive participation from the Dayaks, of course.”
Minos, however, was quick to point out that the government could only give advice, incentives, create catalysts and open up opportunities.
“The Dayaks must take the initiative to help themselves. That involves having new thinking and new attitudes. In short, only the Dayaks can do it, not anyone else,” said Minos, who is also PBB deputy publicity chief and PBB Opar chairman.
He suggested as a starter, the Dayaks must ask how they could make full use of their native customary rights (NCR) land for commercial purposes, instead leaving such land idle.
He said there were over three million hectares of NCR land, but this goldmine would be of no value if not commercially utilised and developed.
“As and when Dayaks really want to turn their NCR land for agriculture or industrial development then, and only then, the government can come in and assist.”
Minos also urged Dayak political leaders to help the community by focusing on things that could upgrade Dayak education and their economy.
“Merely dishing MRPs (minor rural projects) and playing rhetoric will not do much. Dayak leaders should now take the cue from CM and think big and strategic.”