Native communities want quick resolution for land rights issues

  • Community
  • Saturday, 11 Feb 2017

KUCHING: The state government’s newly-formed Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau Committee has been urged to act speedily on resolving issues related to native customary rights (NCR) claims over land.

Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian said the committee chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah should not take too long to conduct its in-depth studies on pemakai menoa (territorial domain) and pulau galau (communal forest reserves).

He said many members of the state’s native community had expressed deep concern over this issue and were looking to Uggah and new Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg to resolve the matter.

“There are no two ways about it but to amend the Sarawak Land Code if the state government is serious about protecting the NCR land of the native community in Sarawak.

“I am aware that some people are concerned that the recognition of such adat may cause huge areas of land to be subjected to claims by the natives. This is not true as claims of NCR land are subject to proof.

“More importantly, the adat must first be recognised and accepted by the powers-that-be,” Baru said in a statement.

He was responding to Uggah’s statement that the state government had set up the committee to find ways of resolving issues related to pemakai menoa and pulau galau.

This comes after the Federal Court ruled last December that the Dayaks could not claim communal land and forest reserves next to their cultivated farmlands as their own because pemakai menoa and pulau galau had no force of law in Sarawak.

Baru, who is also Ba’Kelalan assemblyman, said this matter must be resolved quickly as it not only affected the native community but could have an economic impact as well.

“Foreign investors may have no confidence in the Sarawak government for lack of adherence to human rights requirements.

“The government has never really addressed this problem, as shown by the unrelenting appeals filed by the State Attorney-General’s office in NCR cases.

“I hope the deputy chief minister will be able to make some positive changes in this matter,” he said.

He also noted that pemakai menoa and pulau galau were part of the accepted universal concept of native customary rights land, which includes the virgin jungle where indigenous communities forage for food, hunt and fish.

“The state government should formally recognise these rights by legislating the matter. This is the very reason that I have made attempts to table a motion and Private Member’s Bill on amending the Sarawak Land Code,” he added.

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