Protesters give Sarawak three months to amend land code

Nicholas Bawin addresss the peaceful assembly at the Old Court House on November 13, 2017. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Nicholas Bawin addresss the peaceful assembly at the Old Court House on November 13, 2017. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

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KUCHING, Nov 13 — The organisers of a rally here today gave the Sarawak state government three months to respond to calls for amendments to the Sarawak Land Code relating to native customary rights land issues.

They demanded Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, who is also the NCR land state task force chairman, to be seen doing something concrete within the three months' period.

"We want action before the next sitting of the state assembly or else more assemblies will be held until our demands are met," chief organiser Nicholas Bawin told reporters at the Old Court House where the peaceful assembly was held.

In a memorandum submitted to the state government following the peaceful assembly, the organisers want amendments to the land code to include giving recognition to territorial domain (“pemakai menoa”) and communal forest reserves (“pulau galau”), the definition of “pemakai menoa” and “pulau galau” must be based on the definition of the council of Dayak customs and traditions, the court must be empowered to exercise out NCR lands out of the provisional leases or licences of planted forest, and NCR land must be excluded from the definition of state land.

The issuance of document of title should also not be indefeasible against NCR land, they said.

The organisers also want the state government to put a moratorium on all appeals on NCR land cases, with a view to withdraw them upon the amendments of the Sarawak Land Code.

Uggah, who is also the state Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development, has been tasked with reviewing the land code, with a view to amending the provisions relating to NCR lands, so as to give protection over the customary rights of the owners over their land.

Bawin said the decision of the Federal Court in Tuai Rumah Sandah anak Tabau vs state government did not just affect the Dayak communities, but also the Malay and Melanau communities.

On December 20 last year, the Federal Court ruled that the Dayak community 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.

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