MIRI: Minority ethnic groups in Sarawak have never been ignored or left out from social and economic development plans formulated by the state government, said Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS).
PRS vice-president Jimmy Donald said development policies formulated by the state authorities had always been linked directly and indirectly to efforts to bring minority ethnic groups out of the clutches of poverty.
“Minority ethnic groups have in fact been given priority in many sectors, especially education, health, housing, roads, water and electricity supply, and employment opportunities, particularly over the past 10 years.
“However, there are times when some of these projects did not benefit every section of these minority groups because they are living in isolated areas and they did not distribute and share the projects given to them,” he said in an interview yesterday.
Donald, who is Sri Aman MP and a founder of PRS, said his party wanted to clarify certain issues that were discussed at the Minority Bumiputra Economic Congress 2005 held in Kuala Lumpur last week, which was organized by the Kadazandusun Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Donald said during the congress, some participants had implied that minority ethnic groups in Sarawak had been left out of major development plans.
Sarawak has more than 30 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups, besides the major groups like the Ibans and Melanaus. The Kayans, Kenyahs, Kelabits, Lun Bawangs, Penans and Berawans are among the minorities.
“Minority groups in Sarawak have made a lot of progress in many sectors, but these positive developments are not very noticeable unless one compares their standing in society now as compared to 10 years before.
“Take for example, Sri Aman Division which has more than 500 longhouses scattered over a huge area near the border with Kalimantan. Ten years ago, the longhouse chiefs could not even speak fluent Bahasa Malaysia.
“Nowadays, they can read out lengthy speeches in Bahasa Malaysia, Iban and even in English,” Donald stressed.