PETALING JAYA: Sarawak PKR has thrown its support behind a rally planned in Kuching on Nov 13 to demand native customary rights (NCR).
This follows the authorities’ failure to recognise the indigenous concepts of “pemakai menoa” (territorial domains) and “pulau galau” (communal forest reserves).
Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian said the rally was a reflection of the native communities’ frustration and anger that the courts and the government were seemingly “trampling” over their rights.
“The refusal to recognise pemakai menoa and pulau galau appears to be a betrayal of the natives by those who do not understand, or choose to ignore, the long-practised and long-recognised customs and traditions of the native communities,” he said.
“The frustrations of the people over this issue is understandable because it revolves around something that is so crucial to them and forms an integral part of their lives, which is their land.
“The threat of the loss of their land evokes such a strong sentiment because to the natives their land is their life,” he said in a statement today.
In a majority ruling last December, the Federal Court had refused to recognise pemakai menoa and pulau galau as NCR land in Sarawak.
Justice Raus Sharif, who delivered the main judgment, said there was no legislation in Sarawak that gave the force of law to a group of Dayaks to claim customary rights over virgin forests around their longhouses.
Raus was appointed as chief justice of Malaysia on April 1 this year.
Baru, who is Ba Kelalan state assemblyman, said PKR commended Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) secretary-general Nicholas Mujah and former Majlis Adat Istiadat (MAIS) deputy president Nicholas Bawin for coordinating the rally.
“We are confident that the organisers are highly responsible people and that this rally will be peaceful,” he said.
“I am happy to note that more and more NGOs and individuals are becoming aware of the NCR issues and the problems involving pemakai menoa and pulau galau which have befallen the native communities of Sarawak as a result of the decisions of the Federal Court in recent cases,” he added.
On Oct 16, Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg had said the state government recognised pemakai menoa and pulau galau as NCR land.
He, however, added that there was a need to have the right definitions of the phrases to ensure they were acceptable to all.
“If we want to amend the Land Code, it must be consistent. If our law is wrong, how do (you expect) people to recognise our law?
“If it (the law) is not acceptable by all, then this is not a law. We cannot have the law of the jungle,” he was quoted as saying by the Borneo Post.
He said Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah Embas, who heads the state’s pemakai menoa and pulau galau committee, was working with community leaders to find a solution acceptable to all races.