Sarawak govt asked to help in preventing power abuse among village, community chiefs

Roland Engan

MIRI: The GPS-led Sarawak government has been urged to advise all the headmen and community leaders in Baram to consult members of their communities before making representation or before
signing any agreement with outsiders.

PKR Baram said these include making agreement with companies or giving consent to any works that affect the people’s customary rights over their communal territories.

In a statement issued on Monday, PKR Baram chairman Roland Engan said this measure has to be taken to prevent power abuse which is detrimental to the local communities.

“There are talks in town that the community leaders and headmen are empowered by customs and laws to do whatsoever unilateral act that he or she deems fit towards the communal territories,” he said.

Roland said such misconception must be corrected and the custom of “direct democracy” must be upheld.

This custom relates to the decision making process on matters that potentially affect the entire livelihood or rights of the community members and the decision making process is transparent based on consensus among all members of the community, he explained.

“Every member is given opportunity to speak his or her mind during the community meeting.

“The decision will be made based on majority support or unanimous decision.

“The custom of ‘direct democracy’ allows all members of the community attending the meeting to express opinions and participate in voting on pertinent issues.”

Roland said PKR Baram was concerned about the tendency of community leaders and headmen to decide unilaterally in giving written consents to timber companies, plantation companies and others to commence timber extraction works, area clearing and others.

“Their unilateral acts are prejudicial to the community members.

“So, we have come across a lot of blockade incidents in Baram which were caused by dissatisfaction among the community members towards their leaders’ single-handed decision,” he said.

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