Implement native courts alongside civil system, Dayak land rights forum urges

Four of the eight paper presenters at the NCR land forum (from left) Sec-Gen of the Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak Michael Mering Jok, Dayak National Congress board member Patrick Sibat Sujang, NCR land rights lawyer and Ba'Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian and NCR land rights expert Datuk Sri Edmund Langgu,. ― Picture by Sulok Tawie
Four of the eight paper presenters at the NCR land forum (from left) Sec-Gen of the Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak Michael Mering Jok, Dayak National Congress board member Patrick Sibat Sujang, NCR land rights lawyer and Ba'Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian and NCR land rights expert Datuk Sri Edmund Langgu,. ― Picture by Sulok Tawie

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KUCHING, Jan 7 ― A Dayak native customary rights (NCR) land forum today called on the state government to constitute a native court system which runs parallel with the civil court.

In a draft memorandum to be submitted to Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem, the forum said the native court system must have jurisdiction over cases involving native customs, including NCR lands.

The forum, organised by the Dayak Intellectual Group, also urged that a Royal Commission of Inquiry be established with its panel members to comprise the Dayak elders and experts in the Dayak customs.

“It must have powers to investigate, summon and arrest and further excise out and issue titles over pemakai menoa or over infringement by any leases and licences of all kinds,” the forum said, adopting the draft memorandum read out by former Sessions Court judge Henry Joseph.

Pemakai menoa’ refers to a virgin forest where the Dayaks in rural longhouses go to forage for food and other forest products

“Alternatively, a Native Customary Rights Land Ordinance must be enacted to provide for the recognition and administration of tenure of native customary rights land,” the forum said.

It also wanted the Dayak Council of Customs and Traditions be re-constituted and made an independent body with power and authority to issue documents of titles including communal titles without interference from any third party.

The forum also demanded that all pemakai menoa or any other equivalent native terms and in whatever customs, must immediately be recognised and should be given titles.

On December 20, the Federal Court decided in a crucial judgement that affects tens of other related disputes, that the Dayak people cannot apply their NCR on land to claim virgin forests as their territorial domains and communal forest reserves.

In a 3-1 majority decision, the apex court allowed an appeal by the Forest Department and the state government in a case filed by headman Sandah anak Tabau and other seven other NCR landowners over an area in Ulu Machan, Kanowit.

Joseph, in explaining the draft memorandum, said that the decision of the Federal Court on December 20, has effectively deprived the Dayak community of their pemakai menoa.

He said the decision was contrary to the community’s customary rights to their land, explaining that the customs have been practised since time immemorial.

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