KUCHING: The natives in Sarawak need to empower themselves through education as this can help them in their fight to defend their rights to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
Puncak Borneo member of Parliament, Willie Mongin, said it was imperative for parents to give emphasis on the education of their children, be it in academic field or acquiring skills.
He gave this advice when speaking at the launch of a seminar organised by the Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) at Redeems Centre in Bau on Wednesday.
He noted that studies by the United Nations about eight years ago indicated that about one- third of the indigenous people in the world were living in poverty.
Willie strongly believed that education can bring these people out of poverty but he also admitted that breaking the cycle of poverty was not an easy task, but not impossible either.
He said people could all agree that poverty is a problem, especially for those who experience it and for those who try to help others climb out of the poverty trap or simply survive it, but it did not have to be permanent.
“I think we have all heard it and many of us have said it to our children, our friends, our neighbours that they need to get an education; by having good education you are likely to make more money which in turn translate into having better quality of life.
“The fact is, more often than not, those with higher education do earn more money and often can avoid the difficulties associated with poverty,” he added.
Willie hoped that the indigenous people in Sarawak in particular and Malaysia in general will continue to pay serious attention in empowering their children through education so that they can compete with others in this very challenging world.
He invited all the indigenous intellectuals to come together to create a new generation of indigenous people who are well aware of their rights over the lands, territories and natural resources as well as knowledgeable.
“Knowledge or having proper education will boost the competitiveness of our people not only in the job market but also in businesses,” he said.
He commended JOAS for its efforts over the years where a number of projects that have been carried out gave the indigenous people in Malaysia a new paradigm on how to maintain or sustain the quality of the forest and its resources from being encroached by outsiders through the cooperation between communities and the government.
“This is a good effort as it can also assist the government in carrying out its responsibilities in managing resources in the forest especially protected forest areas.
“In this regard, I also support a seminar of this kind and hope it will be held frequently to promote awareness of the rights of indigenous people over the forest and natural resources around them,” Willie added.
The seminar was held in conjunction with the World Indigenous Peoples Day celebration which falls on Aug 9.