Dayaks, the kingmakers in the next Sarawak election

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By Emma Victoria

ACCOUNTING for 40 per cent of Sarawak’s 1.2 million registered voters, the Dayaks are set to be kingmakers in the next Sarawak state election.

Out of 82 state seats in Sarawak, there are 36 Dayak-majority areas in Sarawak which comprise 22 Iban areas, Bidayuh (eight) and Orang Ulu (six). And all parties are working hard to woo the community’s votes.

Sarawak PKR information and communications chief Abun Sui Anyit said those who were affected by the native customary rights (NCR) issues will not vote for GPS again.

“Some of their native land have been taken under the BN/ GPS administration and been given away to plantations which some are owned or linked to Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) cronies,” he said.

Therefore, those who lost their rights over their NCR land are most likely would not vote for the two local-based party and coalition, he added.

Although the then Barisan Nasional led by the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem won a landslide victory in the last state polls in 2016, there was a large shift in support of the Dayaks during the 14th general election.

BN was defeated in six rural constituencies in Sarawak in the GE14, namely Selangau, Lubok Antu, Julau, Saratok, Puncak Borneo and Mas Gading – all Dayak-majority constituencies.

Sarawak BN rebranded itself as Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) after the polls to continue to fight for the state and the people’s interests.

Abun said the Dayak has been sidelined for decades despite being the majority in Sarawak.

“They are also concerned about the rise cost of living and infrastructure and utilities development as well. I personally think that the Dayak community has been sidelined from various development progress.

“We can see that projects in their areas are always pending for approvals or being delayed due to all kind of reasons. Hence, all this long-standing issues are likely to determine their votes,” he said.

Abun said the community is also hoping to have a Dayak Chief Minister to understand and address their needs and aspirations.

“Yes, it is important for the Dayak to have a Dayak to led the state (provided the leader is supported by the Sarawak Legislative Assembly). Chief Ministers from the BN or GPS over the years have prioritized mostly Malay and Melanau areas,” he said.

Therefore, with PKR’s manifesto has prioritized basic infrastructure such as road, water and electricity as well as NCR, education and physical development of Sarawak, to be on par with the other states in the country.

The last Dayak chief minister in Sarawak was Datuk Tawi Sli, from 1966 to 1970.

However, Marudi assemblyman Datuk Dr Penguang Manggil strongly believed that the Dayaks will continue to support and give strong mandate to GPS in the coming state election.

“GPS government has adopted a rural development-biased budget focusing on infrastructure development and agro-based activities over the past few years.

Most of the programs or projects are currently being implemented while some are expected to kick-start within the next few years, running up to the year 2030,” he told The New Sarawak.

“Based on these track records coupled with the fact that the people are quite well connected to the media, I’m pretty sure the masses are smart enough to judge what the GPS government have done and what it can do,” he added.

Penguang, also the Assistant Minister for Local Government said GPS has proven itself and not just mere rhetoric and election manifestos.

“The other budding parties made a lot of promises like what the Pakatan Harapan government did, which are easier said than done. To us in GPS, we will continue to serve the voters as a people-oriented government true to our slogan “Sarawak First”. The rural areas in particular deserve more continuous development,” he said.

He said the state government detached themselves from Perikatan Nasional or other Penisular-based parties as to stay free from being bound to political masters in West Malaysia.

This is to allow GPS to run, administrate and develop Sarawak based the needs and aspirations of the Sarawakians.

That is why after GE14, GPS has focused on efforts and talks to demand from Federal Government to return and restore what are rightfully ours based on Malaysia Agreement 1963, without fear and favour.

“We have also amended the Land Code to dully recognize our NCR land and status of the “pemakai menoa” and “pulau galau” (PMPG), commonly known as Territorial Domain and issue documents of titles to ensure that these land are owned by the rightful owners despite some may not agree claiming otherwise,” he said.