Natives to take to the streets of Bintulu today

Native groups protesting in Miri earlier this month against the proposed amendment to the Sarawak Land Code. — filepic

MIRI: More indigenous groups are taking to the streets to voice their displeasure with the passing of the Sarawak Land Code (Amendment) Bill 2018.

Today, they will gather in Bintulu to protest against the passing of the Bill.

The protest in Bintulu esplanade will start at 9am and involves groups like the Dayak National Congress, Persatuan Dayak Anak Sarawak, Society for Rights of Indigenous Peoples of Sarawak (SCRIPS) as well as natives from Bintulu, Niah and Tatau.

SCRIPS secretary-general Michael Jok when contacted said they are unhappy that despite their opposition, the Bill was passed.

“We have already asked state politicians not to approve the Bill as it will erode the rights of natives with regards to their control of communal territories. Yet the State Assembly passed the Bill.

“Even though Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas did some slight amendments, we natives still cannot accept the Bill.

“This is because the Bill will require every native settlement to apply to the State Land and Survey director in order for us to get government recognition of our communal territorial land,” said Jok.

He added with the Bill, they have been placed under the control of the State Land and Survey director.

“We have to apply to the director for the right to use our very own territorial communal land.

“We are effectively being categorised as squatters in the communal land we inherited from our ancestors.

“This is an act of gross injustice. We will go to the streets to protest, starting in Bintulu and in other places,” Jok said.

He said the native groups were also angry that the Bill was rushed through the state assembly.

“We natives have not been properly consulted by the state leaders over the details of this Bill,” he said.

On Thursday, the Land Code (Amendment) Bill was passed with a minor change to the size of an area that can be claimed as native territorial domain.

Uggah Embas said the size limit was doubled to 1,000ha after concerns raised by several assemblymen during the Bill’s debate on Wednesday.

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.

Uggah had said the objective was to give legal force to the native customs of pemakai menoa (territorial domain) and pulau galau (communal forest reserve).

“The landmark outcome of this Bill is to enable native communal titles in perpetuity to be issued over areas to be described as native territorial domain,” he said.

On July 7, about 200 natives from more than 20 groups staged a street protest in Miri city.

Armed with banners and posters, they gave a “big no” to the amendment of the land code.

Among those who took part were Baram Peoples Action Committee (BPAC).

BPAC chairman Philip Jau said they rejected the Bill passed by the state assembly.

He added his group will deploy members to take part in the Bintulu street protest.

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