Sarawak opposition accused of confusing people over land survey

AFP pic.

PETALING JAYA: A Sarawak government backbencher has accused the state opposition of sowing confusion in the minds of natives with its call for a change of methodology in a survey of native customary rights (NCR) land.

Layar assemblyman Gerald Rentap Jabu, who is also PPB Youth chief, said the opposition’s call for the government to use Section 18 of the Sarawak Land Code instead of Section 6 could derail efforts to protect the interests of natives.

One of the critics of the Section 6 perimeter survey has been Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian. He recently said the use of the section meant that no compensation would be paid if the state were to acquire any piece of the surveyed lands for a public purpose.

Speaking to FMT, Jabu claimed that the choice of Section 6 proved the sincerity of the ruling coalition in trying to resolve NCR issues.

He said it allowed the government to identify a certain area as communal NCR land whereas the application of Section 18 would be better suited if the purpose was to give individual titles.

“But not all lands are ready or suitable for direct survey for the S18 title,” he added. “We know that for some lands there are disputes over how they should be subdivided.”

He said this was especially the case with communal NCR lands for which individual entitlement had not been determined.

“For S18 individual titles, we will need to wait for them to resolve their disputes first.

“With S6, we can secure and mark a community’s right to a piece of land. It will be locked and reserved for this particular community as its communal reserve. Later on, the members of the community can apply to the state for their individual land titles under S18.

“The members of the community can take their own sweet time to negotiate over how they wish to subdivide the land among themselves.”

Jabu said the state was concerned over encroachments into NCR lands, many of which had not been documented as customary property.

“This is why it is very important to do perimeter surveys on NCR areas. We want to use S6 to quickly identify and gazette a land area as NCR. This is to better protect it.”

He spoke of mountain lands inhabited by Bidayuh communities as providing an illustration of the wisdom of opting for Section 6.

“A mountain cannot be owned by individuals. So we use S6 for a practical reason. It is in order to safeguard the land for the community.”

He also said the use of Section 6 did not mean that members of a community would get equal shares of a piece of land since the shares are determined by traditional customs.

“If your family has 10 acres of land and the community knows about it, that will be your entitlement at the end of the day. You don’t lose your rights to your land.”