Monday, April 22

No big deal


THE headline of the lead news in thesundaypost of Jan 8 – ‘NCR forum fails to reach consensus’ – is unfortunately misleading.

Even read together with the rest of the report, within context, it is ambiguous. It does not reflect the true situation on the ground, at the particular time and place.

To avoid further misunderstanding now spread by a number of netizens, who did not attend the forum, please help clarify matters.

I was in attendance throughout the forum and paid close attention to what the paper presenters had to say. I might have missed some points of discussion in all the six papers; if I have, others in the audience might still remember a lot of the substance.

There was no important failure to reach consensus on the main thrust of the discussion – “Disagreeing with the judges over loss of force of law of the indigenous Customary Rights over Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau”. In fact, not even serious differences of opinion were openly expressed by the participants. Your reporter might have detected a short exchange between me and the organisers towards the end of the forum, and obviously concluded, rather ignorantly, that there was a serious problem – failure to reach a consensus in the objective of the forum, as the headline implies.

The subject of the debate was the procedure regarding the submission of the proposed memorandum to the Chief Minister of Sarawak.

I was one of the those who spoke on this subject – Memo to CM – because my organisation was listed among the potential signatories to that memorandum.

I said two things about it: one, as the text of the draft of the memo stood then, I would prefer to have it sent to the association headquarters for the information and comments of the national executive committee before submitting the same to the Chief Minister, with additional input, if needed.

I thought it was a reasonable request. But the organisers insisted on the discussion and approval/otherwise of the present text of the memo there and then. Here was the difference of opinion – over procedure, not the substantive issues under discussion of the day.

The text was presented at the very end of the forum by which time everybody was under pressure (the meeting must stop at 5pm). Time was necessary to do justice to the text.

Here was a little disagreement on principle only. And the principle has always been that before the text of a joint memorandum reference must be made to each and every organisation for their respective vetting and eventually agreement or endorsement.

There was no disagreement in principle in respect of the need and the necessity for a memorandum to be addressed to the Chief Minister of the state. Where is the failure in consensus? On what?

After some debate, it was finally agreed that the text of the memorandum would be sent out via email to the various non-governmental organisations and that they would return the text with the necessary revisions or some editing, if necessary. Agreed. Where again is the failure to reach the consensus of the forum?

If I may add, the NCR Land Forum on Saturday, Jan 7, 2017 was a success! It was well-attended, well-organised, and the enthusiasm shown by the organisers and the participants was spontaneous, I thought.

I hope it will not be the first and the last; let there be more meetings of this nature, big and small, sponsored by the various interest groups throughout Sarawak.

Sidi Munan President Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia)