Native customary land disputes have dragged on too long

Sarawak native rights lawyer cum social activist Abun Sui (seated in white shirt) with natives whose land disputes had dragged on for many years. Starpic by Stephen

MIRI: There are still too many unresolved cases pertaining to native customary rights (NCR) land disputes, some of which have been dragging on for 15 years, says Sarawak human rights activist cum lawyer Abun Sui.

Abun, who is Hulu Rajang PKR branch chief, held a meeting on Wednesday (Jan 16) with Murum native villagers who are angry that their cases have been dragging on in the civil courts and in the Native Court for years.

"There are cases that were filed by native villagers that have not been settled since 2004.

"That long wait is unfair to the natives whose land continues to be trespassed by development companies," Abun told The Star after meeting the disgruntled villagers here at his Miri office.

He said such cases must not continue to be left "hanging in the air".

He added that in order to settle the outstanding unresolved NCR cases, the state government should give the Native Court more authority to interprete and decide on NCR disputes.

"This Native Court will be the right body to interprete in the disputes involving native customary terms such as 'pulau galau' and 'pemakai menoa'.

"This court must have the necessary experts who know these terms and customary usage by the natives. These experts would be useful to help advise on disputes of such nature.

"They could also serve as advisers to help the state government draw up clearer provisions that can avoid such NCR disputes with the native landowners.

"It is high time to find a long-term solution to these NCR land issues throughout Sarawak.

"As it is now, there are still too many NCR disputes and unresolved cases between the state government and development companies and the natives in the state.

"Those cases that remained unresolved for long time could trigger public outrage and they could be manipulated by certain quarters," Abun said.

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