Sarawak CM says won’t let native land be converted for development

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg (foreground) is welcomed by a large crowd on arrival at Long Lama, about 120km from Miri, August 8, 2019. — Picture courtesy of Chief Minister’s Office
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg (foreground) is welcomed by a large crowd on arrival at Long Lama, about 120km from Miri, August 8, 2019. — Picture courtesy of Chief Minister’s Office

SIBU, Oct 7 — Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg today stressed that he will not allow native customary rights (NCR) land to be converted into mixed zones just for revenue.

He said he has to be clear on why he disagrees with the conversion.

“I have rejected many applications because we will lose our native land status if we give our approval,” he said at the opening of a forum on the amendment to the Sarawak Land Code on NCR land.

“If they succeed, they will apply for more and there will no end to it,” said Abang Johari, who is also the state’s minister of urban development and resources.

He said the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) must protect rights of the NCR landowners in accordance with the rule of law.

“If we were to follow the Federal Court’s decision on NCR land, we will lose all our land,” he said, referring to a NCR land case in which the court ruled that territorial domain (pemakai menoa) and communal forest reserves (pulau galau) have no force of law.

He said the amendment to the land code passed by the State Legislative Assembly last year was meant to stop the Bumiputera from losing their land.

“I, as the chief minister, together with the three deputy chief ministers Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, Tan Sri James Masing and Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, will protect the interests of the Bumiputera, while at the same time, we work with the non-Bumiputera because this is a long-term strategy,” he said.

He urged Bumiputera communities to provide proof when they apply for titles for areas as their territorial domain.

He said the Land and Survey Department will issue titles so long as there are no overlapping claims from other Bumiputera communities.

“I am sure that the department has records on who occupied the land before and after 1958,” he said, referring to Section 5 of the Sarawak Land Code that prohibits the natives from claiming areas they have cleared after 1958 as NCR land.

Abang Johari urged the NCR landowners not listen to the twists and turns of those who forever opposed the 2018 amendment to the land code.

“Let the majority of Bumiputera decide for themselves in accordance with the facts available to them. In the final analysis, none will help us, except ourselves,” he said.

“I go for the truth and at the end of the day, the truth will prevail. Those who are liars will remain as such,” he said.

Over 1,000 community leaders, village headmen, representatives from non-governmental organisations and state government officers from central Sarawak attended the one-day forum.

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