11 Nov 2011
KUCHING: The Dayak Community which forms slightly over 50% of the state 2.4 million people is the main focus of the Pakatan Rakyat’s alternative budget for 2012, if it gains power in the state.
An amount of RM1 billion out of the proposed budget of RM4.285 billion will be set aside for specific programmes to help the Dayak community which has been left marginalised since 48 years ago.
Announcing this at the DAP headquarters, Kota Sentosa assemblyman, Chong Chieng Jen, who is also the Pakatan Rakyat shadow minister of finance said that of the RM1 billion, RM100 million will be set aside for the establishment of a Dayak Welfare Fund.
Among others, the fund will be used for medical assistance to poor Dayaks, to rebuild their houses destroyed by fire and other natural disasters, to care for abandoned Dayak senior citizens, for the supply of water tanks, pumps and pipes for longhouses and to repair dilapidated houses.
A sum of RM20 will be allocated to the Ministry of Tourism and Heritage to preserve Dayak cultural heritage and traditions including the building of a Dayak cultural Centre, collection and publication of oral cultural traditions and histories, development grants for academic research into Dayak cultural practices and traditions and incentives for the publication of Dayak literature.
Chong said that the Pakatan state government will allocate RM80 million to the Ministry of Planning and Resource Management to carry out perimeter survey, to issue land titles to these landowners and for legal assistance in legal disputes with plantation groups and other companions which may also want to take claims to this land.
An additional allocation of RM250 million will be provided to the Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture to provide financial and technical support to the Dayak community for crop planting activities on NCR land.
Chong also proposed RM80 million to establish a SADA Entrepreneur Development Unit under the Chief Minister’s Department with the expressed objective to develop the entrepreneur skills of the Dayaks in the marketing and sales of agriculture produce and retail goods.
A SADA Education fund of RM120 million is proposed to uplift the education level of Dayaks students and to ensure Dayaks are competent in various professional and technical fields.
This includes RM30 to send Dayak student overseas and another RM10 million for the tuition purposed for both the primary and secondary Dayak students, Chong said.
Asked to elaborate on the special funds, he said that many within the Dayak community, especially those living in the longhouses are deprived of conveniences which many others, especially those in the urban areas, take for granted.
For example, Dayaks almost never have medical insurance and thus are not able to pat for specialist treatment which struck down by certain illness.
He said in 2008, a pair of twin sisters who were diagnose with degenerative kidney disease was sent from Miri to Kuala Lumpur Hospital for treatment. A lack of funds delayed their trip, and as a result, one of the twins passed away.
He said: “Dayak homes and other properties such as boats are usually not covered by insurance. Dayak longhouses are particularly vulnerable to fire since wood stoves are still commonly used in many longhouses to cook.
“These homes are also particularly vulnerable during times of flooding and other natural disasters. The famous logjam affecting Rajang River in October 2010 destroyed many jetties and longboats.
“Uncontrolled and under-supervised logging activities pollute the rivers and drinking waters of the Dayaks.
“Many Dayaks still rely on wells and on rain water because of gaps in the coverage of piped water,” he said, pointing out that to reduce and mitigate some of the problems faced by the Dayaks, the PR Sarawak propped to allocate RM100 million to the Ministry of Social Development and Urbanisation to set up a Dayak Welfare Fund.
Chong: “We must not shut our eyes on the plight of the Dayaks as what the BN ministers have done.
“The Dayaks all alone have been marginalised and left out from the main stream of development in our country.
“As such, PR must take action to help the Dayak community in terms of their education, cultural and social levels,” he said.
Commenting on the same issue, Dr. John Brian Anthony, chairman of Dayak Consultative Council, said that the amount of RM1 billion was based on the promised by Penang chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
“This will help Dayaks among others in education such as sending Dayak students to be trained overseas in order to acquire skills and experience, because they will one day become not only the leaders of the community, but also of the state and country.
“Another interesting thing in the budget is that the strengthening of the Dayak culture. You see culture is a strong unifying factor.
“If we improve our cultural development than we Dayaks will be able to keep our identity as a race and that will become a good product for tourism. This will also mean other people could understand and learn the Dayak culture,” he said.
The other part emphasised by the budget is on agriculture, Brian said, pointing out that the Dayaks have asset factors of production such as land which has not been fully utilised by the present government.
“The present government has been talking about modernisation of agriculture, and I do not see nay modernisation taking place.
“Once the Pakatan takes over the government, it will give tittles to the landowners and will help them to develop their land. Dayak economy will be further enhanced through giving them the land titles,” he said.