Not the Chief!

4 Tunai itu Raja

Image: 7 Cash is King, copyright by Niranjan Rajah. Preparatory image for photographic work developed from an original illustration by Gord Hill.

With the 150th birthday of Canada approaching this weekend and with the various recent Department of Justice filings of charges in the United States implicating Malaysian  crown business practices, it seems apt to reflect on the relations of my two nations. The cogent event here is the looming but contested arrival of Malaysian Oil and Gas giant PETRONAS on Lelu island in the Canadian province of British Columbia. This meeting of hegemonies takes place on land that is technically unceded and therefore under the authority of traditional Chieftains of the indigenous peoples of the land in Question. Two such groups , the Gitanyow of the Gitxsan nation and the Gitwilgyoots of the Tshimshian nation, have filed  lawsuits and are seeking a judicial review of the Federal Government’s approval of the Petronas led LNG project on the basis of inadequate consultation with their respective authorities. Lelu island lies within traditional Gitwilgyoots territory.

In a counter measure the elected Lax Kw’alaams Band band council in northern British Columbia, and PETRONAS subsidiary, Pacific NorthWest LNG, made representations at the Federal court earlier in the present month of June 2017, seeking to deny the ancestral authority of Simogyet Yahaan, of the Gitwilgyoots Tribe of the Tsimshian peoples. In other words the purported hereditary chief’s standing is being questioned by the elected chiefs. As an immigrant to these shores from Malaysia,  a nation that is embroiled in the mother of all financial and political controversies, I find it both tragic and ironic that this attempted usurpation is being carried out by the natives themselves, under the auspices of the exemplar of Malaysian corporate prowess.


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