Dayaks demand Sarawak govt expedite Land Code amendment

Sarawak-land-code-dayakPETALING JAYA: Nine Dayak NGOs say it is imperative that the Sarawak government urgently amend the Sarawak Land Code to legally recognise the definition of pemakai menoa and pulau galau, The Borneo Post reported.

Issuing a joint statement after a meeting in Kuching yesterday, the NGOS warned the Dayak community’s resentment for the state government would not end until the issue was resolved.

“Our wish is that all undesirable disputes in and outside the courtroom over native land and all resentments or ill feelings among the Dayaks towards the government will end soon,” the NGOS said, calling for the state to be proactive in coming up with a comprehensive solution to all NCR cases, according to the Sarawak-based daily.

The NGOs which met were the Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association (SDGA), Sarawak Dayak Iban Association, Dayak National Congress, Persatuan Dayak Sarawak, Gempuru Besai Kristian Jaku Iban Malaysia, Dayak Right Action Force, Serian Iban Remun Association, SCRIPTS and Dayak Think Tank Group.

The community has also reacted negatively to the recent court ruling on the Bill Kayong murder case, with the NGOs saying the state government’s silence was very telling.

“There was no reaction at all from the state government. With the acquittal of the alleged mastermind of the murder, the native communities are now much more angry and restless. It paints a picture that the native landowners can’t even get justice in the court.

“The government must not fear in recognising our pemakai menoa. We are not against any development. What we want is that any development affecting our lands must be in compliance with the international standard – namely the standard set up under the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (or UNDRIP),” the statement said.

According to Borneo Post, the NGOs also demanded that they be given an opportunity to look at the final draft of the amendment to the Land Code involving pemakai menoa drawn by a government special committee chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah Embas.

“This is in line with the prime minister’s call for the government to be citizen-centric and this incorporates the concept of inclusivity.”

The call to expedite the amendment to the Land Code has come following two major rulings against the indigenous in the past seven months.

On Dec 20 last year, a Federal Court ruling nullified native customary laws held by the indigenous population of the state, by saying that the Dayaks cannot apply their NCR to claim virgin forests as their territorial domains and communal forest reserves.

The apex court had allowed an appeal by the forest department and the state government in a case filed by headman Sandah Tabau and seven other NCR landowners over an area in Ulu Machan, Kanowit.

The Federal Court ruled the native custom of “pemakai menoa” (territorial domain) and “pulau galau” (communal forest reserve) had no force of law in Sarawak.

It set aside the orders of the Court of Appeal and High Court that had previously recognised NCR over “pemakai menoa” and “pulau galau”.

Then, on March 15, the Federal Court allowed an appeal by the state government and four timber companies that six natives from the Kelabit, Lun Bawang and Penan tribes were not entitled to damages for encroachment.

Justice Balia Yusof Wahi, who delivered the judgment of the five-man bench, said the defendants had lost the right over the land as they had been resettled.

“They have abandoned their NCR land and the suit was filed after the resettlement.”