KOTA KINABALU: The indigenous people are already halfway towards achieving its goal of equitable development in the fields of economy, social, culture and politics in their respective nations.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said however, to push it further and realise its ultimate goal, indigenous people groups from Sabah, Sarawak and the broader Borneo region must continue to communicate with each other to ensure better coordination and foster stronger ties.
“For the indigenous populations of Borneo to wield greater influence in their respective territories, it is crucial for them to adopt a unified vision and mission.
“The cornerstone of this empowerment journey is the crafting of a shared identity. This philosophy is mirrored in the theme of our two-day seminar coinciding with the World Indigenous Day celebration, aptly titled ‘In Search of Common Identity’,” he said after launching the seminar here today.
He said at present, various indigenous communities have organised themselves into associations, a development he recognised as a successful first step.
“But one day, our aspiration is to witness true unity among the different ethnic groups in Borneo under the identity of ‘Orang Borneo’ or ‘Orang Dayak’,” he said.
The seminar which begins today is attended by participants from Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan. Its primary objectives are to facilitate dialogue, promote mutual understanding among diverse indigenous factions, emphasise the importance of a collective identity, and strategise to enhance the indigenous ecosystem of Borneo.
Dr Jeffrey believes seminars like this play a pivotal role in establishing a more effective system to communicate among different indigenous groups in Borneo.
“After establishing communication, the next priority will shift towards organising and protecting land rights and the environment. Currently, I believe we are already about 50 per cent towards our goals of empowering the indigenous communities, and I anticipate reaching the 60 per cent mark shortly.
“In the near future, celebrations such as this World Indigenous People’s Day will transcend mere gatherings, symbolising noteworthy achievements and advancements for the indigenous people,” he said.
Earlier in his speech, Dr Jeffrey highlighted the importance of preserving indigenous culture, language, knowledge, and tradition.
Towards this end, he acknowledged the importance of establishing and participating in activities that promote the culture and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples through ‘Sekolah Adat’.
“Sekolah Adat stands as a beacon in our efforts to safeguard and nurture our rich indigenous heritage. These institutions are pivotal in ensuring our younger generations are rooted in their identity and equipped with the knowledge passed down through the ages,” he stated.
He urged for more such institutions be established across the Borneo region.