Impossible to cater to needs of indigenous community in Sarawak - Ex-Puteri Umno
SHAH ALAM- Land rights and conservation which include dam construction, large-scale plantations and large-scale resource extraction are among the barriers to equitable and long standing indigenous rights issues.
Over 13.8 per cent of the Malaysian population which included the indigenous were suffering from these issues as well as violence against women and girls including child marriage, unintended pregnancies, and difficult access to health care.
Crisis Management and Conflict De-escalation consultant Zarra Z. Rawi said it was not possible to cater to the needs of the indigenous community in Sarawak as there were many of them.
“I think we have around 40 to 50 types of natives there and what we need to take into consideration is the location as the geography of Sarawak is not “friendly”, it is too far from each other so it is hard to monitor each of them.
“I think half of them are still living in their old ways, they call it the “ancestral” way in which they still practised their land and cultural rights,” she said.
Zarra was speaking as one of the panellists in Sinar Daily's Wacana English Edition programme entitled “Malaysia’s Progress: Where are we now?” on Friday.
Commenting further, she said there was no stopping them as the Sarawakians were only comfortable in their own ways.
“For them, that is how they have been living and it is who they are, so we can’t stop them.
“They are like the aboriginal Australians, they live the way they live and you cannot say much about it as it is their lives and how they want to live,” she said.
Asked about the Sarawakians’ access to service, Zarra said they needed to look for it outside (of their villages) since they lived in rural areas surrounded mostly by jungle.
“The only way is for them to come to us, we cannot go to them.
“Majority of them are like nomads, so we have to let them come to us because like I said, Sarawak is very big and we could not cater to everyone in every area,” she added.
She said it was very hard to build basic infrastructure as it costs four to five times more due to the geographical features of the state.
Besides Zarra, the other panellists on the programme were Association of Women Lawyers vice president Daniella Zulkifili and #BangsaMalaysia project coordinator Nathaniel Tan.
The programme focused on issues concerning social transformation and opportunity as well as equitable development especially for the youths and the underserved communities.
Zarra was a former Puteri Umno member born in Sarawak and the daughter of former Selayang Umno Chief Datuk Ahmad Bhari Abd Rahman.
In the next episode of Sinar Daily's Politically Frank programme, she will reveal why she left the party a year after she held the deputy chief post.