KUCHING, Oct 31 — Putrajaya should amend both the federal and Sarawak constitutions as well as the state’s Interpretation Ordinance legalise the term “Dayak”, instead of just using it on government official forms, an opposition lawmaker has said.
“This is to ensure that the status of the Dayaks is legally recognised and protected,” Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian said today.
Baru said the Federal Cabinet’s approval yesterday on the use of the term “Dayak” instead of “Lain Lain” (Others) to refer to the non-Muslim natives of Sarawak in the race box of the official forms is only a policy decision without any legal force.
“Therefore, the term ‘Dayak’ has no legal definition as it has so far been merely an anthropological term,” he said when responding to a statement by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Joseph Entulu yesterday that the Federal government had approved the use of the term in all Federal government official forms.
He said Article 161 (7) of the Federal Constitution defines the natives of Sabah and Sarawak as the Bukitans, Bisayahs, Dusuns, Sea Dayaks, Land Dayaks, Kadayans, Kalabit, Kayans, Kenyahs (including Sabups and Sipengs), Kajangs (including Sekapans, Kejamans, Lahanans, Punans, Tanjongs dan Kanowits), Lugats, Lisums, Malays, Melanos, Muruts, Penans, Sians, Tagals, Tabuns and Ukits.
“Therefore, there is a need to recognise ‘Dayaks’ as being the collective noun for these natives of Sarawak in our Constitution and other legislations,” he added.
The Ba’Kelalan state lawmaker said there is also a need to amend the Federal Constitution to be consistent with the Sarawak Constitution where ‘Land Dayaks’, ‘Sea Dayaks’ and ‘Muruts’ had been amended to ‘Bidayuhs’, ‘Ibans’ and ‘Lun Bawangs’ respectively.
He added the expanded list should also include other ethnic groups such as the Berawans, Kiputs, Terings, Tabuns, Bakongs, Mirieks, Lirungs, Tebalaus, Narums and others who have been omitted for so long.
Meanwhile, non-governmental organisation Dayak National Congress (DNC) president Mengga Mikui said giving recognition to use the "Dayak" term in the race box of official forms in long overdue, 52 years after Malaysia was formed.
“The change from the term “Lain Lain” to Dayak is the result of the combined efforts of the Dayak-based non-governmental organisations, Dayak professionals and state political leaders,” he said after attending the DNC Annual General Meeting here today.