Non-Muslim Dayak Treated As Second-Class Citizens, Discriminated As Usual

COMMENT: Non-Muslim Dayak were never prioritized in the minds of the State government for Petros, the state-owned petroleum company. The decision to appoint a non-Muslim Dayak was only made after being heavily criticized by the netizens in social media.

A few hours after the Chief Minister’s Office released a statement announcing the list of Board of Directors (BoD) in the newly-formed Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros), I questioned the BN state government led by PBB, a predominantly Malay party, on why non-Muslim Dayak are always being sidelined in almost all major appointments made by the state government despite being the majority in the state.

After my statement was released in the social media and it went viral, lamenting that Dayaks were under-represented, soon after that, Abang Johari Openg the Chief Minister of Sarawak called-up Douglas Uggah Embas, his deputy, as quoted in The Borneo Post as saying “I was told by him (Abang Johari) a few hours ago to do so. He now wants a non-Muslim Bumiputera member on the board of Petros”.

From the statement made by Uggah, it clearly shows that the non-Muslim Dayak were never a priority for Petros in their minds.

Internet photo; for illustration only.

For so many years since Sarawak formed Malaysia 54 years ago and since BN controlled the state government 43 years ago (since its formation in 1974), the non-Muslim Dayak have been treated as second-class citizens and have been systematically discriminated by the BN government of Sarawak led by PBB.

Since the fall of Stephen Kalong Ningkan, the then Chief Minister, the minority in the state have started to consolidate their power to overrule the majority in the state for 46 years and this fact is not an open secret anymore.


We have cried foul on why there are no non-Muslim Dayak representatives in the BoD of Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas); now the same thing is happening in Petros. Not just the Dayak have been under-represented, but the non-Muslim Dayak has been totally ignored.

This racial imbalance in Petros shows that Abang Johari is slowly following his Umno counterparts by prioritizing only one race. Other races are merely a window-dressing just to show that he is a so-called ‘Chief Minister for all’.

As an important stakeholder, the non-Muslim Dayak have a direct interest to be involved in Petros BoD. This is because we want to see real participation from qualified and capable non-Muslim Dayak in the Petros BoD.

Sarawak is not short of capable non-Muslim Dayak. Since there are two Dayak deputy chief ministers in the state cabinet, there should be no reason why they cannot identify intellectual a non-Muslim Dayak, or two, to sit in the Petros BoD.

Such ignorance should not happen in the first place because it will only show that the PBB-led state government doesn’t recognize the contribution of the non-Muslim Dayak in the State.

However, the person to be appointed to the Petros BoD should not be affiliated to any political party within the Barisan Nasional. This is to avoid any conflict of interests and influenced by their political master.

As such, the state government led by PBB should not just respect the wishes of the majority but also to prioritize and appreciate them in the future.

Without the votes and support of the Dayak during the Ming Court crisis in 1987, the present BN state government would not be in power.

Abdul Aziz Isa, left, is Special Assistant to Chong Chieng Jen, Sarawak DAP chairman. He is seen with Sanjan Daik, middle, is Political Secretary to Chong and Thomas Sixtus Tegong Laka, DAP Mambong Branch deputy Chairman and ‘DAP Go Rural’ spokesperson