“The reason for this is clear” explains an opposition spokesman, “These people are resisting the destruction of their lands by the timber and palm oil interests which are backed and controlled by the ruling parties. As a result, BN do not want to give them a voice or a vote that might help them fight back”.
Native Sarawakians denied birth certificates
For 30 years Taib Mamud and his ministers have kept up the story that they are `trying their best’ to offer birth certificates and identity cards to natives, but ludicrously claim that they unfortunately can’t reach them in the interior. “Everyone else knows where we are” says one Penan Headman in the Middle Baram , “they can reach us any time, but the authorities always come up with excuses. Now it is nearly 50 years after Independence and these excuses are ridiculous”.
In an interview with foreign TV journalists last year Land Minister James Masing admitted “our treatment of the indigenous tribes has been unacceptable, things must change”, however still nothing has yet been done to register an estimated 60,000 people without birth certificates. Now, with another State Election due, Taib’s is up to his same old tricks and claiming there will be a new registration drive soon. But, each time there has been a similar pretence, numerous malpractices by officials have prevented tribespeople from obtaining their identity cards. “The officials illegally demand 800MR for every ID card” explains the Penan Headman, “We don’t have that sort of money and our birthright should be free”.
“Taib is an old man and as they say you can’t teach a old dog new tricks”, explains one human rights activist,“he thinks he can get away with the same laughable old story and once again people will believe him. The indigenous people are demanding their birthrights even if they have to march to Kuching to get them”.