There are 13 races recognized as indigenous to Sarawak.
Any Sarawakian of mixed parentage may apply to be recognised as a native Sarawakian from 1 November.
Deputy Minister in the Premier’s Department (Law, Malaysia Agreement 1963, and Federal-state relations) Datuk Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali said applications could be filed at any district office with a fee of RM100.
According to the press statement, the Sarawak government would form a panel led by state secretary Datuk Amar Mohamad Abu Bakar Marzuki to decide on the applications.
The qualifying criteria to be recognised as a Sarawak native, in line with the provisions of the Interpretation (Amendment) Ordinance 2022, are:
- A person must be a Malaysian citizen
- A natural born child of a person of a race indigenous to Sarawak
- One of their parents must be a person of a race indigenous to Sarawak.
While this issue of “native-ness” has been a long-standing one, the matter was further brought to light when local musician Alena Murang spoke up about it last year.
Alena, who’s registered as Kelabit on her IC, is mixed race as her father is Kelabit while her mother is European. She found out that as someone who is of mixed race, she wasn’t recognised as a native legally so she couldn’t inherit her ancestral lands.
Back in February 2022, the Sarawak state assembly unanimously passed the Interpretation (Amendment) Bill 2022, which included considering a child from a mixed marriage a native even if only one of the parents is a native.
Twelve other races are also included in the list of indigenous races in the state, namely the:
- Jatti Miriek
The change is welcomed by local netizens such as Twitter user Doh Nyawen (@BeeBalan) who said she can now be seen as a native in the eyes of the law and would not lose her father’s inheritance due to her half-Kayan heritage.
Other Twitter users in similar predicaments, especially on matters concerning family inheritance, voiced the same feelings.
Bayangkan: my father—fully Kayan, part of the community who were relocated to make way for the Bakun Dam, who sacrificed their ancestral homes for the development of this nation—could not pass on any native land he owns to his own children.— Doh Nyawen (@BeeBalan) September 19, 2023
Bc we are “only” half Kayan.
My mum sent a copy to all us kids. Now , hopefully we won't have to worry about fighting the gov over our dads farm.— Sooperspook (@nlinggod) September 19, 2023
honestly!!! the way it took so long to for them do this — and how when Alena voiced out there was more active traction — but also over the years so many half-half folks put in applications without knowing it will be processed so this clarity is a relief https://t.co/c3wJQhUm9r— dia. 🥮 (@diainthecity) September 19, 2023