BINTULU, Sept 26 — Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg today assured that the state government will back the Pehin Sri Adenan Satem Research Chair, better known as the Tok Nan Chair, at the Bintulu Campus of Universiti Putra Malaysia in conducting research on ethnic groups in the state.
He said there could be many more ethnic groups or sub-ethnic groups that have not been identified yet and documented as natives of Sarawak.
He said the latest findings by the campus show that Sarawak has 31 ethnic groups.
“Definitely, I can assure you that the state government will support you in your endeavours to know more of our ethnic groups,” he said at the opening of the Third International Conference on Science, Social Sciences and Humanities (ICOSSH 2023).
State Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, in his speech, said since the chair’s founding, significant achievements have been realised in an effort to protect and advance the rights of different ethnic groups in Sarawak while promoting ethnic diversity.
He said the Sarawak government is serious in its effort to gather data on different ethnic minority groups in Sarawak, and that one of its achievements is the increase in the number of ethnic groups in Sarawak from 27 to 31.
“It is very likely that the number will increase, especially considering that there are ethnic groups who do not have their own identity,” he said.
He also said that his ministry is cooperating with the branch campus to collect data on the ethnic groups.
Karim said his ministry welcomes the efforts made by UPM and the Tok Nan Chair to elevate the status of branch campus as a hub for the study of ethnic herbs in the state.
“Indeed, Sarawak has many unexplored natural resources,” he said, adding that the collaboration between the local community and researchers would, therefore, give the latter to greater insight into indigenous treatments.
Karim said his ministry had agreed to extend the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an injection of RM3 million in funds, which includes purchasing the equipment necessary for research into medicinal plants and herbs.
UPM Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and International) Professor Dr Ismi Ariff Ismail, in his speech, said data and information collected have been published in the form of journals, videos, and websites, and shared via the Tok Nan Chair portal.
He said this information is then channelled to the state Ministry of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts, which serves as a basis for policymaking.
He said the effort to establish the Bintulu campus as a hub for ethnic studies is a serious initiative aimed at advancing research in the field of ethnic studies.
He added this will be realised by offering new fields of study at the postgraduate level through the introduction and implementation of the full-time ethnic studies programme.