Preference for using ‘indigenous’ instead of ‘native’
Published on: Friday, January 18, 2019
By: Larry Ralon

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Justice Tan Sri Richard Malanjum (pic) hopes the Government will adopt the word “indigenous” when describing native people in the country, in accordance to what is used in the United Nations (UN), instead of the word “native”. 

He also proposed that indigenous laws be introduced and given emphasised as a subject in the law faculty of universities or that those like Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) can start a school that gives emphasis on this subject. 

“These are some of my thoughts for protection of the rights of the indigenous and for their better future,” he said, when opening the Borneo Rainforest Law Conference 2019 at Pacific Sutera, Thursday. 

According to Malajum, in Malaysia the word “native” are still used although the UN has been using the word “indigenous”. 

“Let’s be honest about it, when we mention the word native, the first that comes to people’s mind are people walking around with cawat (loincloth)”, or maybe some fellow who may cut your head off. 

“Because that has been projected by the media or Western powers during the olden days. So that is why in the UN, they use the word I am hoping that the Government will adopt ‘indigenous’,” he said. 

Unfortunately for Sabah it is still “native”, he said, adding there are a lot of negative connotations on the use of that word. 

“If you don’t believe me, just go to the coffee shop, when people ask ‘who is the lawyer?’ and people will answer ‘some native fellow’. Of course it is a bit difficult to pronounce (indigenous) sometimes but it is okay as we can learn as we go along. 

“Unfortunately, not many people are pushing the idea, so I am looking at Sabah Law Society, Malaysian Council of Justices of the Peace Sabah (Majaps) and Pusaka, because I notice that unless there is an external push the authorities will not move…I don’t know why it is like that,” he said. 

“And let’s not wait. I know in Australia, they are very caring now towards the indigenous. But I think it is very difficult to convert porridge into rice. So we don’t want to reach that stage in our society, if we can prevent it why not.”

The big challenge of what is going on now is that day by day the indigenous people are losing, he said, adding for those who have gone to the mobile court or the Malaysia mediation courses, they know that things are not going well down there. 

Malanjum also hoped there will be a discussion in the future about setting up a law school with emphasis of or at least with the subject of indigenous law. 

“In New Zealand, they have put a lot of emphasis on indigenous laws at Waikato University. Here we have a lot of universities but there is hardly any subject that is being taught in the law faculty about indigenous law, or maybe it is just an optional subject. 

“If we have, for instance, in the Universiti Malaysia Sabah a basic school law with a basic focus on the indigenous law, why not,” he said.

Earlier Malanjum also hoped there would be a proper auditcarried out to see whether nations have been respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). 

“So far, as far as I know, there is no audit carried out by countries on how effective or productive was the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

“There should be an audit or otherwise it will be just a declaration and that’s it, and no benefits or whatsoever to the real indigenous.” 

He also congratulated the organisers of the conference, hoping that it will bring out many things. 

The conference, which involve a discussion and a comparative study of the indigenous peoples’ rights and the law from around the world, including speakers from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Philippines, Sabah and Sarawak and the Peninsula Malaysia to present papers and to share from the wealth of their experiences and knowledge in the field. 

It is meant for advancement and better understanding of the indigenous peoples’ rights and the development of the law for indigenous peoples amidst this fast paced ever evolving world. - Larry Ralon


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