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KUCHING, Nov 17 ― A comprehensive amendments to the Sarawak Land Code relating to territorial domain and communal forest reserves will be ready for tabling in the May 2018 sitting of the State Legislative Assembly, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said today.
He urged the indigenous communities, Dayak non-governmental organisations and interested individuals should let the Native Customary Rights (NCR) land task force look at the issues holistically and thereafter work out proposals to amend the Land Code to resolve the current problems.
“In the meantime, I would like to appeal for patience from all parties,” he said in his winding-up speech at the state legislative assembly meeting.
Uggah said the state government is committed to resolving all issues relating to NCR and will table the Bill to amend the Land Code.
“We also consider amendments to other related laws such as the Native Customs (Declarations) Ordinance 1996, the Native Courts Ordinance 1992, the Interpretation Ordinance 2005 and the codified Natives’ Adat,” he said, adding that more time is needed to draft detailed and holistic amendments.
He stressed that the state government is working hard to amend the Land Code relating to NCR and is not “keeping quiet or inactive” as alleged by some indigenous communities.
On November 13, Sarawak’s large indigenous communities held a public rally here, demanding that the state government amended the land code within three months, failing which more rallies would be held.
Among other things, the indigenous communities demanded in a memorandum that the state government recognise pemakai menoa and pulau galau as NCR land as well as abide by the decision of the Council of Dayak Customs and Traditions to define both those terms.
The natives also want the state government to suspend all pending appeal cases against the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal.
Uggah said the Federal Court had in the case of Tuai Rumah Sandah anak Tabau and others vs the state government and director of forests last year, ruled that the custom on pemakai menoa and pulau galau was never recognised in relation to creation of customary rights to land, in any of the Orders made and legislation passed by or during the colonial-era administration of the Brookes or by the State Legislature.
He said the Federal Court also ruled that the said custom is also not expressly provided in any of the codified Natives' Adat, like the Tusun Tunggu and Adat Iban, 1993.
“The Federal Court ruling has wide-ranging implications, thereby causing anxieties and concerns, among the natives of Sarawak,” he said.
He said that since then issues relating to NCR land have persistently been raised and championed by diverse interest groups including the Opposition to arouse the sentiments of the people for their own reasons.
Uggah said the NCR affects all native communities, including the Malays and Melanau besides the Dayaks.