KUCHING: Encouraged by the support given by the Dayaks in the recently concluded state election, Sarawak DAP has formally formed the Dayak Brain Trust (DBT) with the aim to understand the needs of the Dayaks, their concerns and their culture as it expands its activities into the rural areas.
Dr. John Brian Anthony, a Kuala Lumpur-based consultant has been appointed to chair it.
The idea of forming the Trust came about in the wake of the strong support of the Dayaks for DAP candidates in the last state election, resulting in some constituencies where DAP candidates winning with bigger majorities.
DAP’s six of the 12 seats were won due to the swing of Dayak support between 30% and 34% in mixed constituencies.
The Dayaks comprise the Ibans, Bidayuhs, Kayans, Kenyahs, Kelabit, Penans and other non-Muslim natives who form about 60% of Sarawak’s 2.4 million populations.
Sarawak DAP Secretary Chong Chieng Jen, who revealed this today, said that Dr. Brian is expected to recruit at least 10 more Dayak intellectuals to sit in the Trust which objective is to act as a ‘think tank’ for the DAP.
"The members of the Trust are not necessarily members of DAP. Intellectual Dayaks who have the interest of the Dayaks and the State are allowed to join.
“This Trust is set up for the purpose of giving advice to DAP on issues affecting the Dayaks and making recommendations and proposals to help the Dayaks,” he said.
“It is a consultative council to look at the welfare and concerns of Dayaks working in Peninsular Malaysia who are forced to leave Sarawak to work in Johor Bahru, Klang Valley and in other parts of the country.
“There are 45,000 Ibans in Johor Bahru and 40,000 in Klang Valley. Altogether, there are 125,000 Ibans working in various capacities in Peninsular Malaysia,” Chong said, pointing out that some of them are faced with hardships and are separated with their families.
Chong related a sad story of an Iban worker from Bawang Assan who worked in Johor Bahru. Due to his own problems at work, he was unable to look after his wife and children who were left behind in the longhouse. His wife had to divorce him.
“This man told us of his plight,” he said, pointing out that the majority of them are earning between RM1, 200 to RM1, 500 a month.
“It is a sad thing that they have to leave their longhouses to look for jobs in Peninsular Malaysia because Sarawak’s economy is stagnant.
“They are young and productive workers who can contribute to Sarawak’s economy if they remain in the state. Imagine, if more than 120,000 workers return to Sarawak, they can contribute around RM120 million to the state economy,” he said.
“These are some of the issues that the Trust can discuss and recommend to DAP which will in turn raise them in the Dewan Undangan Negeri or in Parliament,” he said.
Chong, who is the state assemblyman for Kota Sentosa, recalled that he tried to raise the plight of Iban workers in Peninsular Malaysia at the recent sitting of the state assembly and why they were forced to seek jobs away from home.
“I was debating the amendment bill to Land Custody Development Authority (LCDA) and attacking the state government’s development on native customary rights (NCR) land which only benefits the cronies and not the landowners.
“The fact that there are thousands of young and productive Iban natives going to Peninsular Malaysia to earn a living shows the failure of the government’s land development policy.
“This was when BN state assemblymen shouting at me and so rowdy were they that the Speaker forced me to sit down saying that I was touching on a very sensitive issue.
“They were really scared to hear the truth,” Chong said.