What’s a Sarawak native? Definition still being fine-tuned, state assembly told

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUCHING, Nov 29 — The state government is still refining the definition of what it means to be a “native” in Sarawak.

Minister in the Premier’s Office Datuk John Sikie said the definition, which is to be made part of the amendments under the state Interpretation Ordinance, will be presented to the state legislature once finalised.

“Such conditions, requirements and procedures are expected to be tabled to the State Cabinet soonest,” he said in his winding up speech on matters raised during the debate on the state Budget 2023 in the state assembly today.

Sikie was replying to Ba’Kelalan state assemblyman Baru Bian who raised the matter during the debate on the state Budget 2023.

Baru had questioned the delay in gazetting the amendment which was passed in the State Assembly in its sitting in February this year.

He noted that Deputy Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Law, MA63 and State-Federal Relations) Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali, had assured that the amendment would be gazetted within two weeks of it being passed in the state assembly.

Baru said children of mixed marriages between natives and non-natives had been encountering various problems in matters of land transfers, inheritance and entry into educational institutions because of ambiguities or confusion or perhaps refusal of some bodies or institutions to accept the wider definition of ‘native’ to include children of mixed marriages.

He had said Article 161A of the Federal Constitution was amended in December 2021, defining “native” in Sarawak by reference to the definition of races considered indigenous by State law.He added in February this year, the Interpretation (Amendment) Bill 2022 was unanimously passed at the State Legislative Assembly, conferring native status to children of mixed marriage, of which one parent is a native.

Baru said this definition gives a clearer picture that only one of the parents needs to be of an indigenous race in order for the child to be considered a native.

He said the then minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was reported to have said the recognition was now given to Sarawak children with mixed parentage even though only one parent is a native.