KAPIT: News that the police will revoke firearm permits if holders use their weapons for poaching has been met with dismay by some folks here.
“In some ways, they feel that there is still a lack of understanding from the relevant authorities with regard to the matter that touches their traditional way of life,” said Kapit District Council (KDC) Walikota Lating Minggang to the press yesterday.
“This needs to be studied further in depth because the scenario in Sarawak is slightly different from in West Malaysia. In Sarawak, the management of firearms is under the Sarawak firearms ordinance,” he said.
The impact of the move, he said, was huge as rural folks not only used their guns to protect their crop, for personal safety but also to hunt.
“Even though many Dayaks are living in the cities and towns now, occasionally they go back to their longhouses to hunt wild boars as hunting is still very much a part of their culture, which they maintain,” Lating stressed.
“We do understand the need for the relevant authority to protect our wildlife. However, the sensitivity of the Dayaks must also be taken into account too.
“Hunting has always been synonym with their way of living…at times, hunting is also considered a part of the Dayak identity.
“The gun is very important to the Dayak, to the extent that it is also included in the family inheritance, handed down from generation to generation,” said Lating.
He suggested that the authorities consider more practical approaches such as a restriction clause, for instance, “unless the area has been gazetted as national parks, all the other jungle areas (primary and secondary) should remain as the Dayak’s hunting grounds.”
“KDC, being in the frontline and closer to folks in the rural, views the move by PDRM (Royal Malaysian Police) with great concern because like any other sensitive matter, there is always a pro and con.
“For instance, if they are prohibited from owning a gun for hunting purposes, there is a possibility too that this may drive some of them to resort to acquiring firearms illegally.
“If there is a lack of manpower dedicated to address this particular issue in the enforcement unit, then this could also hinder the relevant authority from carrying out enforcement effectively,” Lating elaborated.
“When you fail to plan, you are planning to fail, and in this particular case, owning a gun for the purpose of hunting has always been an integral part of the native way of life.
“Thus, when a policy is being passed unilaterally, that happened to touch on the sensitivity of natives in rural Sarawak without taking into account their views as stakeholders, more often than not, the plan is bound to fail,” he cautioned.