British Conservative Shadow Minister for Education and a Member of the House of Lords, Baroness Verma of Leicester hosted the briefing on the plight of minority Indian rights of Malaysia. The briefing followed a letter written to the British Government by the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) in November last year and later HINDRAF demonstrations to highlight their problems.
Held at the House of Lords on behalf of the friends of minority communities in Malaysia, the purpose of the briefing was for members of the House of Lords and House of Commons to obtain a true picture on the plight of the ethnic minority Indian community in Malaysia.
Giving the briefing were the Director of Public Policy of Hindu American Foundation Ishani Chowdhury, Director of Centre for Public Policy Studies Malaysia Tricia Yeoh, Human Rights Advocate Malaysia P. Waythamoorthy and Editor of Malaysiakini K. Kabilan.
It is sad that Malaysian Dayaks have not been invited to attend the briefing even though we wrote a letter to the British High Commission. In fact the protem secretary general of the yet-to-be registered Malaysian Dayak Congress (MDC) wrote a letter a month earlier than the HINDRAF, to the British High Commission.
Copies of the letter were sent to Foreign Minister, Minister of Home Affairs, Registrar of Societies and American Embassy regarding the gross injustices and discrimination by the authorities against the Dayaks who were once the British subjects before Sarawak, Sabah, Singapore and Malaya formed the federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963. Our letter was apparently ignored as we did not organise “strikes to highlight our problems” as the Indians did or that we were/are a coward lot; or that we have become irrelevant.
Let me produce excerpts of the letter for all of us to see. (Full details of the letter are published in The Broken Shield – The Dayak Dilemma due to be out soon). The letter dated 18 October 2007 said: -
"We feel that we have the right to bring to the attention of Her Majesty Government, as our former colonial masters regarding our plight, 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 (IGC) report and the Malaysian Agreement.
“Our customary rights over land, with the passing of amendments to the Land Code
have been taken away from the Dayaks and are being given to rich businessmen or
companies under the guise of Provisional Lease for the cultivation of oil palm in big scales. 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, however, while the British Government guaranteed the rights to land held under customary laws, but in our present situation the opposite seems to operate adversely against the Dayak community.
“As if these discriminations are not enough, the Dayaks are not even allowed to
form a party of their own to articulate their political, educational, cultural, economic and social aspirations. What Dayak-based parties they had in the past were being deregistered one by one – first the authorities deregistered Sarawak National Party (SNAP) and then Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) both on flimsiest reasons. The Dayaks who number about 60% of the State population are encouraged to be members of every political party by the BN leaders. This is a subtle way of ‘divide and rule’ community.
“Following the deregistration of PBDS in October 2004, some ex-PBDS members on 6 May 2005 submitted an application to register Malaysian Dayak Congress (MDC).
After more than one year of submission, the application was rejected by the Registrar of Societies on 19 July 2006 under Article 7 (3) of the Societies Act giving reasons that MDC would be a potential threat to national security for its rejection.
“It is in this light that we the protem committee members and the Dayak community who were once Her Majesty’s subjects appeal to Her Majesty Government to put pressure on the Malaysian Government.”
Strange it may seem, the Indians have also taken a similar course of action against the British Government, except that they were more aggressive, more demanding and took their problems to the streets. So on 25 November 2007, they launched what is famously known as the HINDRAF (Hindu Rights Action Force) march to the British High Commission handing a note to Her Majesty Government.
Although the Dayaks have missed the first briefing, it is hoped that another briefing may be called specifically to hear the grouses of the Dayaks. Through this blog we appeal to the British High Commission to arrange for the protem committee members to meet any British leader, British MP, or staff of the High Commission so that the committee members can brief any one of them on the plight of the Dayaks. – The Broken Shield