State govt’s plan to recognise native customs lauded

KUCHING: Suhakam supports the state government’s move to look into the issue of pemakai menoa (territorial domain) and pulau galau (communal reserve) as the right step towards better recognition of native customs with regard to land.

Commissioner Francis Johen said this was consistent with Suhakam’s recommendation for due recognition to be given to native customs in Sarawak.

“If you look at native customs, the scope is wider compared with what is recognised in the Land Code. The Land Code generally recognises land which is cleared, or temuda,” he said at a Suhakam media session here.

Also present were Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail and commissioner Jerald Joseph.

Francis noted that the state government’s move to set up a working committee on pemakai menoa and pulau galau came in the wake of the Federal Court’s decision in the Tuai Rumah Sandah case last December, which ruled that the native customs of pemakai menoa and pulau galau had no force of law in Sarawak.

The committee, chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, is expected to come up with recommendations on pemakai menoa and pulau galau to the state goverment by the end of the year.

“We hope that with the working committee, something positive will come out of it. In what form we do not know yet because this is a legal and technical issue.

“At least there is a positive move by the state government. Now the state is more open to consider this and see to what extent recognition can be given to pemakai menoa and pulau galau,” Francis said.

In this respect, he said a mechanism should be set up to determine the extent and verify claims of pemakai menoa and pulau galau.

He also called for action to recognise the rights of the indigenous people other than land as spelt out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which Malaysia supports.

“UNDRIP has no force of law but there is an obligation on the country to put it into practice at domestic level. What is needed is a change of policy and domestic law to support the declaration,” he said.

For instance, he said there must be effective consultation with the affected indigenous communities in development projects.

“You don’t just tell them what you are going to do but there must be two-way dialogue.

“We want this to be done in the planning stage, design, construction and throughout and after the project so that all aspects are taken into account,” he said. — By SHARON LING

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