Oral laws in black and white

secretary general of Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak Michael Jok showing books containing the oral history of native comnunities of the state compiled by the society. Stephen pic

MIRI: The oral land laws of the Dayak and Orang Ulu indigenous communities have been compiled into a book to make sure their rich ancestral traditions and way of life will not become forgotten.

The pionerring effort was carried out by the Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (Scrips), a community-based organistion.

It is a noble move by the society which has more than 30 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups.

The book, entitled “Our communal territories, our communal rights”, is in Bahasa Malaysia and compiled by Scrips secretary Michael Jok and community chief ex-Temenggong Pahang Deng.

Jok said the book, launched by prominent lawyer and businessman Datuk Wan Ullok here on Saturday, took one year to compile.

“This is the very first book of its kind that puts into print the oral traditional and customary laws governing native land use in Sarawak,” he said.

“The Orang Ulus and Dayaks since ancenstral times have adhered to oral laws handed down from one generation to the next on how the headmen of the natives govern native land.

“There are 15 types of native customary rights land and there were oral laws on how to administer them.”

Jok said matters pertaiming to boundary lines between longhouses, and river boundaries and burial grounds were governed by oral laws.

“Pahang Deng has vast experience in such laws and had handled many land cases in the native courts before.

“All these things are now compiled into a book that will benefit native community bodies, land law firms, educational bodies and even government agencies that deal with native land issues,” Jok added.

He said it was vital for such oral traditions to be inked so that they would not be lost forever.

Senator Lihan Jok and political secretary to the chief minister, Robert Laing, and other prominent native leaders also attended the book launch at a hotel here.

Scrips had already compiled six books containing the ancestral oral history of six different communities in the state and the books were launched by Scrips president Nor anak Nyawai in Bintulu recently.

Jok said all the books were important as oral history of the natives would become extinct over time if no effort was taken to ink them down.

“Sarawak natives have history dating back centuries but until today not much effort had been taken to document them.

“Their history are only in oral form. That is why we feel it is so important to document them to make sure that their history is passed down to future generations.”

The six books complied by Scrips are about the ancestral roots and way of life of the Kenyahs in Long Bangan Belaga, the Tebalans in Long Sobeng Tinjar, the Bisayas in Batu Danau Limbang, the Ibans in Nanga Jangin Ulu Lemarak, the Malays in Kampung Tungkah Melayu Simunjan and the Bidayuhs in Kampung Mujat Serian.

The books contained maps and pictures detailing their ancestral land, Jok said, adding that they also detailed their practices, cultures and food resources.

Jok said he hoped that future generations would appreciate their ancestral roots and be more aware of their rights as the original people of Sarawak.

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Family & Community , East Malaysia , oral


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