Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dayak businessmen up in arms over Sarawak video expose

Screenshot of one of the scenes in the video clip as released by London-based activist group Global Witness.

Sarawak's Dayak corporate chiefs are reportedly seething with rage over a video exposing racist remarks by some prominent state personalities with close government links and want Putrajaya to address their economic woes.

The Borneo Post Online reported today the video, produced by UK-based environmental campaigner Global Witness, was the hottest debate topic at the Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (DCCI) annual general meeting in Kuching yesterday.

According to the news portal, DCCI members took offense at the views voiced by two lawyers and cousins to Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud which were seen to demean the indigenous tribes described in the video as "squatters" on state property in the expose on endemic corruption over land deals in Malaysia's largest state.

"We firmly believe that the natives have rights in our land. Our rights in land have been well entrenched in our laws, culture and customs which are duly recognised and accepted by our courts.

"These rights should be respected by all," DCCI secretary-general Libat Langub was quoted as saying in a statement issued after the meeting.

Libat reportedly admitted that Sarawak natives were trailing Malaysians in the peninsula economically, but said they had equal rights as citizens and should not be manipulated or exploited by others.

"Indeed, the way forward is to ensure that all communities are provided with greater opportunities to meaningfully participate in all sectors of development, including in land development, to ensure that we can achieve the government's objective of a higher income and an all inclusive economy.

"We hope, in that way, to progress and find our rightful place in ‘one' Malaysia," he was quoted as saying.

Libat urged the federal government to recognise Sarawak's native customs, culture, conditions and circumstances when drawing up and carrying out policies, the daily reported, adding DCCI members were concerned its non-Muslim Bumiputera were being shut out of economic opportunities that appeared to favour Muslims.

"A case in point is in relation to ration cooked supplies catering tendered in rural schools where there are no Muslims, which require the participating companies not only to have halal certificate but be owned by Muslims," he was quoted saying.

The DCCI members total some 500 entrepreneurs and professionals from the Dayak community, Sarawak's main ethnic community.

Some 100 members from all over the state attended the DCCI meeting chaired by its president and former federal minister Tan Sri Leo Moggie.

The Global Witness video titled "Inside Malaysia's Shadow State" was first released on March 19 and was also featured on satellite news channel, Al-Jazeera.

It showed dealings by undercover investigators with Taib's cousins and several other intermediaries to acquire thousands of hectares of forest land, which the UK-based environmentalist said would displace thousands of indigenous people living there.

Taib has since played innocent and denied his involvement, and his government has even initiated its own probe to determine if the video was an attempt by the opposition to discredit him ahead of Election 2013, a contest deemed the most critical yet for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

It has since gone viral on social media networks.

Sarawak PKR has also said it will translate the video which allegedly showcases the chief minister's involvement in shady land deals as part of its electoral campaign to break Abdul Taib's chokehold on the state.

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