Sarawak govt consents to Adenan Satem chair in UPM focusing on Borneo ethnic research, pumps in RM2.54m as initial funding

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Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman said the research chair is the university's tribute to Adenan’s (pic) struggles as a Sarawakian. ― Foto Bernama
Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman said the research chair is the university's tribute to Adenan’s (pic) struggles as a Sarawakian. ― Foto Bernama

KUCHING, Oct 27 — The Sarawak government today consented to establishing a chair at the Bintulu campus of Universiti Putra Malaysia named after former chief minister, the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem Chair.

The memorandum of agreement was formalised and witnessed today by Adenan’s successor Datuk Abang Johari Openg.

Abang Johari, who took over as chief minister following the death of Adenan in 2017, said the establishment of the Adenan Satem Chair as a research centre will focus on Borneo ethnicities in Sarawak, particularly on cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic elements.

“The effort of Bintulu UPM to focus on Sarawak ethnic studies as a niche area should be well-appreciated as we strive towards greater economic development,” he said at the launch of the chair held in conjunction with the Second International Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities 2021.

He said Sarawak has 27 ethnic groups and 45 dialects spoken by the Sarawak people, and looking more closely at the indigenous people and tribes of Sarawak, they may be divided into sub-tribes depending on their geographical location.

“For example, the Dayak community is split into the following Dayak Laut [Iban], Sebuyau, Remun, Balau, and Iban Undup and so on.

“The Malays are classified as Brunei Malay and Sarawak Malays while the Melanaus are subdivided into the Oya, Daro, Balangian, and so on.

“Undoubtedly, these diverse cultural forms provide vast resources for research activities, particularly on culture, language, traditional practices, performing arts and way of life,” the chief minister said.

Abang Johari added that although the state government is pursuing a digital economy, local culture is just as important.

He said many scholars, particularly those dealing with ethnicity in Sarawak and Borneo, must work towards the preservation of its indigenous culture.

“Research will certainly help to bring to the fore the richness of Sarawak’s cultural diversity and strengthen our cultural identity,” he said.

Abang Johari said the research chair will serve as a hub for collecting data on cultural heritage and treasures from diverse ethnic groups in Sarawak and Borneo, which otherwise would be abandoned or forgotten.

He added the university will also take the lead in ethnicity research in Sarawak, particularly on culture, language, human thinking, customs, art and traditional heritage.

“I hope that the Chair would drive research efforts and uphold the unique identity and richness of Borneo's indigenous cultural heritage at the international level,” he said.

In his speech, state Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman said the research chair is the university's tribute to Adenan’s struggles as a Sarawakian.

He said during his lifetime, Tok Nan as Adenan was fondly known, had brought progress to the Sarawakian communities in the name of unity, regardless of race or religion.

He said the Chair will be housed under the Borneo Ethnic Research Centre and managed by the Faculty of Humanities, Management and Science at UPM’s Bintulu campus, adding that the research centre and faculty are specialists in social science research on Bornean ethnic groups in Sarawak.

Karim said the state Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has allocated an initial injection of RM2.54 million funding for the first three years.

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