Holly Jonas (Natural Justice) was in Ba’kelalan, Sarawak, for the week of 19 January to participate in a workshop hosted by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) on its project “Implementing Telecentre Programme Among Orang Asli in West Malaysia”. This was a follow-up to a UNIMAS workshop from 6-7 January in Kuching, Sarawak, attended by Harry Jonas.
Participants at the workshop in Ba’kelalan included a team of UNIMAS researchers from a range of disciplines and around 40 community members from Indigenous (orang asli) villages in West Malaysia involved in the five-year project. The first day consisted of overviews of the project plans and proposed activities by UNIMAS’s project lead, Dr. Poline Bala (Department of Anthropology and Sociology), and other researchers who will lead activities related to information and communication technology, education, health, agriculture, traditional knowledge, and training.
Natural Justice kicked off the second day with a lively forum theatre exercise that illustrated the many challenges and nuances of researchers engaging with Indigenous peoples. This was followed by further discussion about different types of customary or cultural protocols (individual, family, intra- and inter-community, and vis-à-vis outsiders) and a presentation on the relationship between community protocols and state and international law, and guiding principles for community protocols based on Natural Justice’s work with the Asian and African regional initiatives on the same. Dr. Tariq Zaman (UNIMAS) shared his experiences with supporting the Penan community in Long Lamai, Sarawak, to document and utilise their cultural protocols to regulate engagement with researchers. Theresia John (community researcher from Ulu Papar, Sabah) presented on the process undertaken by the 9 villages in Ulu Papar to consolidate their biocultural community protocol on the basis of more than seven years of participatory research.
After several hours of intensive group work to flesh out preliminary elements of protocols for the UNIMAS researchers to respect in each orang asli community, the workshop wrapped up on the third day with a cultural night hosted by the community of Ba’kelalan.
For more information about community protocols, please visit: www.community-protocols.org.