The sessions covered the following areas:

Goals of the Capacity Building Training, Vision, Mission of SCRIPS and participants vision and expectations from the workshop, the Federal Constitution, UNDRIP, Community Governance, Participation in local governance, analysis of the context in which community leaders work, political, environmental, economic, social realities, laws and threats to distortion of history, changes to state laws and impact on culture and practice of traditions and challenges, solutions and future plans.

Capacity Building of  Sarawak Indigenous Leaders for Community Empowerment,  Feb 28 - Mar 2, 2014 Organized by SCRIPS in Bintulu, Sarawak

The session on the Federal Constitution drew attention to Article 5 on Equality and Rights of Indigenous People. Attention was drawn to the importance of History of Sarawak from before the period of Brooks to the British period and formation of Malaysia when Sarawak became a member of the federation? But Sarawak retained control over land and immigration. Changes to the state laws such as the land code had serious implications on Native Customary Rights to Land, Identity and culture.

The controversy over the Allah issue was raised during the discussion on Constitutional rights. To the Indigenous People, it was not only an issue of Religion but as there are many other words used by the Indigenous People which have now been banned,  the Allah issue has raised concerns on language , culture and worship.

A presentation on the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights which Malaysia ratified was a timely reminder that in addition to the Constitution, rights of Indigenous Peoples are internationally recognized.

The three day training on Capacity Building of Sarawak Indigenous Leaders for Community Empowerment was highly successful with active participation from community representatives from the 11 Divisions in Sarawak. The training was supported by the US Embassy Kuala Lumpur.

 

The programme was held at the Li Hua Hotel in Bintulu, Sarawak from Feb 28 to Marc 2nd.   The twenty five participants consisted of village headmen, leaders from the women and youth bureaus of several longhouses, representative from the Agriculture Department, community agriculturalist, SCRIPS committee members, lawyers and resource persons.

Michael M Jok draws attention to Article 5 of the Federal Constitution

Ali Basah,(far left) legal advisor to SCRIPS emphasizes on need for community support on NCR land cases

Participants raised questions that despite equality guaranteed in the Constitution and UNDRIP, the right of indigenous communities in Sarawak to the preservation of their culture and identity as well as livelihood options are threatened by commercialization of culture and loss of natural resources due to economic development activities like logging and plantations. These activities have led to increasing poverty and lack of access to education, potable water   and poor infrastructure. Participants affirmed the importance of self determination, the need to address weaknesses’ within the communities in participating in decision making processes.

Of particular concern of the participants was the fear factor over rights to assembly and expression. As such, venues are not available for trainings eg headmen not permitting their long houses to be used by NGOs for training. Resource persons pointed out an understanding of the laws would help in addressing the fear factor.

 

During the training on policy advocacy, participants highlighted that Indigenous people were not consulted in policy making dialogues particularly those policies that impact their lives. More training was required for community leaders to be proactive and seek representation in policy making bodies and processes.

The session on the context and SWOT analysis of the environment in which Indigenous People exist was very lively and open with free flow of  inputs and contributions from the participants themselves. The participants understood the  SWOT analysis well. Opportunities like technology should be used to empower communities .

 

The three day Training programme ended with several recommendations from the participants:

  • Participants evaluated the Programme  and gave an A.

  • Requested for similar programmes in the towns and at the village level throughout Sarawak.

  • Specific training for all leaders at community level

  • Advocacy training for Association Village Headmen

  • Review laws related to natural resources and forestry

  • Strengthening Community Governance over Natural Resources , Rivers and sources of water 

  •  Campaigns to ensure religious tolerance and harmony

  • A Legal Defense Fund for Indigenous Peoples Rights needs to be established.

Nor Ak Nyawai addressing the participants

Resource persons for the training session

Participants at the closing session of the seminar