Bill passed with change to land size limit

Sarawak Pakatan Harapan assemblymen paying a courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg (right) and Uggah (second from right) at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly complex yesterday.

KUCHING: The Land Code (Amendment) Bill has been passed with a minor change to the size of an area that can be claimed as native territorial domain.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas said the size limit would be doubled after hearing concerns raised by several assemblymen during the Bill’s debate on Wednesday.

“Their concern was that the limit of 500ha a native community may claim as native territorial domain under Section 6A may not be fair and just, as some communities’ requirements may exceed this threshold.

“They proposed that the limit be increased to 1,000ha. The government has taken note of this proposal,” he told the Sarawak Legislative Assembly when winding up the debate yesterday.

As such, he said the relevant clause in the Bill was amended to allow claims for native territorial domain of up to 1,000ha with the approval of the state Cabinet.

On the contentious matter of “usufructuary rights”, Uggah reiterated that the term only described the customs and practices which would be legally recognised by the amended provisions to establish ownership rights to a native territorial domain.

“After the usufructuary right is established, the territorial domain will then be given a native communal title which confers a proprietary right.

“This is giving ownership of the native territorial domain to the community. In other words, they own the territorial domain, not just the right to use. I hope this will clear the doubt on this issue,” he said.

He was responding to allegations from Pakatan Harapan assemblymen that the Bill fell short of expectations because it only sought to confer usufructuary rights, or the right to use but not own the land.

Uggah also appealed to Sarawak’s native communities to give the new law a chance and not to politicise the issue.

“I would like to reassure all native communities in Sarawak that the state is committed to ensure that the proprietary interests over native territorial domain are protected and native communal titles rightfully issued to the respective native communities in accordance with the Land Code.

“I am confident this Bill will definitely resolve the controversies surrounding the subject of native territorial domain.

“Through this Bill, the government has given the custom of creating native territorial domain the force of law,” he said.

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