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KUCHING, April 18 — Children who are born to parents of mixed marriages between a non-native person and a native of Sarawak should be recognised as natives, said Selangau MP Baru Bian.
In supporting the recent calls made by Rurum Kelabit Association president Datuk Dr Philip Raja and Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) secretary-general Libat Langub on the issue, Baru said he had discussed the matter with his fellow leaders in Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) and it was agreed that the party would give priority to his matter.
“For the benefit of all the offspring of mixed marriages in Sarawak, we pledge in our manifesto to protect their identity and rights by taking immediate steps to amend the definition of ‘Natives’ in the Federal and State Constitution and the Interpretation Ordinance, to include any children of mixed marriages between natives and non-natives,” he said in a statement yesterday.
He said his first experience with this issue was when he was acting for the plaintiffs in the Nor Nyawai case in the High Court.
According to him, the Attorney-General’s (AG) Chambers had contended that the plaintiffs had to prove that they were pure natives, and that none of their ancestors had married outside the races listed as ‘native’ in the Schedule of the Sarawak Interpretation Ordinance.
“Although the AG’s Chambers subsequently withdrew their assertions, Justice Ian Chin noted in his judgment that ‘if the contentions which I have referred to earlier are upheld, it would strip many Sarawakians who are the products of mixed marriages (between a native on the one hand and a non-native) of their native status’,” said Baru who is also Ba Kelalan assemblyman.
He pointed out that problems have arisen in recent times with the Land and Survey Department which has made it more difficult for children of mixed native/non-native marriages to inherit native land.
He said in the past, it was the department’s practice that if the father is a native, then the children would be considered native, but that this has changed now for reasons best known to the department and their policymakers.
This, he pointed out, has serious implications for native customary land claimants along with other implications when these children are denied their rightful status as natives.
“I recall there was a case where a student was denied entry into a tertiary educational institution because she was deemed a non-Bumiputera, but this was later reversed via an administrative order. I believe, as do all other natives of Sarawak, that all children of mixed marriages between natives and non-natives should be recognised as native,” he added.
Baru said that if this was not done, as Justice Chin had observed, many Sarawakians would lose their native status and there would eventually be no natives left in Sarawak.
Not only would this have serious implications on the demographics of Sarawak, but it would have deleterious effects of our people’s sense of identity, culture and heritage, he pointed out.
“We have always prided ourselves in our mixed races with their various adat and our multi-culturalism, and we must do all we can to preserve our unique characteristics.
“I believe that in Sabah, an additional Certificate from a Native Community Leader can be obtained in support of the recognition of children of mixed marriages as natives,” he said. — Borneo Post