Pakatan assemblymen urged to say no to Land Code amendment

Baru (left) and Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen (right) speaking to reporters at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly’s media room. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE /The Star

Baru (left) and Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen (right) speaking to reporters at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly’s media room. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE /The Star

KUCHING: Sarawak Pakatan Harapan has urged assemblymen, including those from the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition, not to support the Land Code (Amendment) Bill when it is tabled in the state legislature today, as it falls short of the native communities’ expectations.

Baru Bian (PKR-Ba’Kelalan) said the proposed amendments to recognise the concepts of pemakai menoa (territorial domain) and pulau galau (communal forest reserve) were “very disappointing”.

“It fails to recognise the fundamental characteristic of the pemakai menoa and pulau galau concept as affirmed by the landmark cases from our jurisdiction and other jurisdictions which hold that the aboriginal people’s rights include an interest in the land and not merely a usufructuary right.

“Section 6A(1) of the Land Code (Amendment) Bill specifically provides for the recognition of ‘usufructuary rights’ only, which is defined as ‘rights or privileges exercised or enjoyed by a native community over a native territorial domain to forage for food including fishing and hunting’,” he told reporters at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly’s media room yesterday.

In law, a usufructuary right is the right to use a property without having legal ownership of it.

Baru, who is also Works Minister, said he was announcing the state Pakatan’s common stand against the Bill ahead of its tabling as he will not be present in the House today but will be attending the Cabinet meeting in Putrajaya.

He said the state Pakatan also disagreed with the proposed amendment to limit the extent of an area given to native communities under pemakai menoa and pulau galau to 500ha only.

“It is our stand that our native customary rights land cannot be restricted or limited to an area defined by the authority.

“The extent of the territorial domain should be in accordance with the area that the natives have continuously occupied since the time of their forefathers to this day.

“We have won cases where the pemakai menoa and pulau galau extend beyond 10,000ha. Limiting the size in this manner is unjust, unfair and morally wrong,” he said.

Baru said another amendment provided that applications for recognition of the territorial domain be made through the land and survey superintendent and to be approved by the state land and survey director.

However, he said the determination of custom or “adat” of Sarawak’s indigenous people could not be subject to a non-native or a person with no knowledge of native “adat”.

“In this regard, our proposal for an Indigenous Land Commission consisting of experts in native custom to deal with this issue is the right thing to do,” he said.

He noted the positive aspect of a proposed amendment on the perpetuity of the title to be issued over the territorial domain.

“But this by itself could not justify the absurdity of the main aspects of the amendments alluded to,” he said.

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Government , Sarawak , land , National Land Code , native , rights