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Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

Malaysia: Adopt traditional knowledge for modern use, says indigenous peoples’ group

Gam A. Shimray believes governments should learn from traditional knowledge in terms of government systems and conflict resolution.

KOTA KINABALU: Traditional knowledge is beginning to gain prominence in the international public forum, with some institutions placing it on equal footing with scientific knowledge, said the Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP).

AIPP secretary-general Gam A. Shimray said in the earlier days, traditional knowledge benefitted from the help of other United Nations (UN) bodies such as the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) and proponents of climate change awareness.

“These bodies played critical roles in promoting traditional knowledge and their efforts have led to better acceptance of traditional knowledge as having equal value to other forms of knowledge.

“Of course, within traditional knowledge, we put more emphasis on the spiritual dimension of things while others, not so much.

“Nowadays, traditional knowledge has been recognised as potential problem solvers for issues such as forest degradation, climate change and many others,” he said when met at the 2019 Asia Preparatory Meeting on UN Mechanisms and Procedures Relating to Indigenous Peoples here earlier.

He said in Sabah, the traditional knowledge on river and forest management had successfully ensured enough supply of fish and game under the Tagal system, where no fishing or hunting is allowed for a certain period.

Gam added that the system had been so successful that the government had adopted it and made it part of its programme under the Fisheries Department.

While he is happy that some of the traditional knowledge has received its due recognition, Gam however feels there is more that needs to be done.

“I think the recognition is only half-baked. We are focusing only on resource management and the traditional knowledge’s importance in conserving the environment.

“Traditional knowledge is not limited to these only. There are many other things that it can contribute. For example, its government system, its conflict resolution system, judicial system and political understanding are still not utilised.

“We still have a long way to go,” he said.

Manja Bayang says diversity in languages and culture is what unites the people.
Meanwhile, Mary Ann Manja Bayang, who is an aide to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, said the four-day meeting was to prepare participants taking part in an international forum in Geneva on indigenous peoples’ rights in Asia.

This year, she said the meeting will be focusing on language although other issues, including climate change, biodiversity and population, will be discussed as well.

“This time around, we want to use this opportunity to raise awareness on indigenous languages as many languages have become extinct. We want to increase usage of languages in the various countries,” she said.

She said language is one of the rights of the indigenous peoples and is specifically mentioned in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Undrip).

“The notion that one language for one country will unite the people is wrong.

“We are of the position that diversity is what unites people because we should respect each other’s diversity, not just language, but also culture, race and colour,” she said.

More than 80 participants from 15 countries took part in the meeting.

Source: FreeMalaysiaToday