Village chiefs sacked for backing opposition
by Tony Thien
Seven ‘ketua kaum’ or village chiefs from the Bidayuh community in the Bau-Lundu area of western Sarawak were sacked effective from July 31 after they allegedly failed to heed a government warning against campaigning for the opposition during the March general election.
“They were all shocked to receive the letters terminating their services,” opposition State Reform Party (Star) president Dr Patau Rubis, a former state assistant minister, told Malaysiakini today.
The seven ketua kaum include Yassin Abdullah alias Jasin Anak Nuing of Kampung Tembawang and Ajom Noyek of Kampung Stenggang in Bau District. They received a memo from the state secretary’s office dated July 5, signed by Serudu Hoklai, informing them of the government’s decision to terminate their services effective from end July.
Ketua kaum are elected by each village and part of their role is to perform certain services for which they are paid a monthly allowance of RM300.
Warning letters had been issued to the seven by the Bau District Officer Tom Rem Mijod on March 3, five days before national polls began.
The DO said in his letter he had received several reports informing him that they were campaigning for the opposition rather than the candidate chosen by the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. He warned that if they did not stop, further action including termination could be taken against them.
Against universal rights
Star’s Patau said three of the ketua kaum had approached him for advice, and he had written to the state secretary Wilson Dandut, informing the latter that the termination was wrongful.
“It is against universal rights, and it is against human rights, and we are referring the case to Suhakam, the human rights organisation,” said Patau.
Patau also said the government should not allow political interference in the appointment of ketua kaum, whom he said acted as the last bastion for the community in protecting the rights to their ancestral land.
“If ketua kaum can be exploited, what will happen to the NCR land?,” he asked.
Meanwhile, four village chiefs have also approached state PKR legal adviser See Chee How, who is also the party’s Stampin division chief.
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