Malaysiakini Opinion

Let’s forget Dayakism and think Sarawakism!

Francis Paul Siah  |  Published on  |  Modified on

COMMENT | Former Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Daniel Tajem, considered one of Sarawak’s foremost Iban leaders, passed away on May 27.

Dayakism, the term coined by Tajem when he co-founded Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) with Leo Moggie in 1983 as the political war cry for the Dayak community, was buried with the 82-year-old Tajem when he was interned three days later, on May 30.

"If Umno speaks for the Malays, MCA for the Chinese and MIC for the Indians, let PBDS speak for us Dayaks," Tajem had famously declared at the birth of the party.

As a journalist with the Sarawak Tribune in 1983, I was among the press corps at Tajem’s residence, a humble government house on Rodway Road in Kuching that afternoon, when the formation of PBDS was officially announced.

That was the birth of Dayakism. Tajem was politically astute to coin “Dayakism” to rally support from the community. PBDS needed a racially-linked slogan to attract support from the Dayaks, rightly or wrongly and it worked initially.

Admittedly, I was not that politically mature 35 years ago to fully grasp it all. If the Dayaks really wanted a party they could call their own, they had every right to form one. Well, that was my simplistic, very ordinary but fair judgment, or so I thought.

But one thing was clear even then. A party established along racial lines surely wouldn’t last long. Not in Sarawak!

PBDS was born because Moggie was defeated by James Wong, a Chinese, for the presidency of the Sarawak National Party (SNAP) in 1981...

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