Sarawak PKR leader Augustine Liom wants Dayaks in Barisan Nasional (BN) to join Pakatan Rakyat to change the state government, so that native customary rights (NCR) to land can be protected.
“It is a matter of urgency that we put into power a government that is kind to us and which is protective of our rights especially land rights and the rights to property as guaranteed in the federal constitution,” he said.
“Any support to the BN and its component parties means only a support to maintain a status quo. We get nowhere. A handful of seats to Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party, a handful seats for Parti Rakyat Sarawak and a handful of seats to Parti Bumiputra Bersatu and Sarawak United People’s Party. That is all.
“We continue to be split, divided, ruled and manipulated and to gradually lose our lands. So we have no choice but to go for a radical or revolutionary change in our political approach.”
Liom, a former judge, was recently appointed to head the land and human rights bureau of the state PKR. He was speaking at a Gawai Dayak dinner organised by the PKR women’s wing in Kuching.
“Our Dayak friends in BN ought to now join us to make this happen to change the state government. Otherwise posterity will not judge then too kindly [...]
“Do not be overwhelmed by your comfort of office that you forget where you have come from. I say ‘comfort of office’. I don’t say ‘comfort of power’ because we know that they do not have that much power.
“Real and meaningful power is in the exclusive domain of chief minister and his handful of inner circle of confidantes. They will not be so kind as to share that power.”
Liom said the results of the March 2008 parliamentary elections have led Sarawakians to realise the political reality.
“The Dayaks now need a national party as their political vehicle. Sarawak National Party is nominally alive. Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak is dead and gone. Malaysian Dayak Congress has not seen the light of the day.
“What we need is a political vehicle, that is PKR, and we need Malays like Anwar Ibrahim (right) to champion the Dayak cause, not Malays who will divide us or who will rob us of our NCR land.
“We place our trust in PKR and Anwar to champion the Dayak cause. This is a stark political reality we have to come to accept and to live with. There is now no alternative to that.”
Liom said BN leaders have denied that the state government had robbed the people of their NCR to land.
“But when longhouse folks wake up one day to find tractors ploughing through their rubber or fruit trees on land they have toiled for generations and are told that the government had granted lease to their land to a logging or plantation company usually connected to people in power - is that not daylight robbery? That is what is happening in our midst,” he said.
He said the government would then tell the landowners to prove that it was NCR land, but that this is difficult when the original settlers have died and because landowners could not acquire NCR by purchase.
“So in effect, it means gradually and eventually NCR land will be no more. And that is the policy of the BN government,” he added.
“Have we heard any BN Dayak leader calling for a survey and for the issuance of titles to NCR land? No one in BN dares to make such a call. On such matter, only one man decides.”
PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who was present, said: “If we want to change Sarawak for the better, then it is now or never.”
At a press conference after declaring open the Batu Kawa PKR service centre earlier, she said the party had held discussions with a number of past and present BN leaders to join the party before the end of the year.
“I am not going to reveal names. Let there be an element of surprise,” she said, without dismissing the possibility that some of these leaders are from Sarawak.