Suhakam commissioner advocates people-centric, rights-based approach to addressing native land ownership issues

Dr Madeline Berma

By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, July 29: The state government needs to urgently address the native land issues of the indigenous people, particularly customary land ownership, perhaps by adopting stronger people-centric and rights-based approach (RBA) on land laws and polices.

In making the suggestion, newly minted Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commissioner for Sarawak Dr Madeline Berma really hopes that there will be more RBA and people-centric policies by the state government and not a ‘kick the can down the road’ approach when it comes to protecting the rights of its citizens, otherwise the people’s grievances will remain unsolved.

“We also hope that there will be stronger and genuine political will among the local leaders to protect the rights of the people. That would be a step in the right direction,” she said at a press conference at the Suhakam Sarawak office here today.

On the overall the human rights situation in Sarawak, Madeline said that human rights infringements are still ‘under control’ here.

She also stressed on apart from land issues, Sarawak is also facing stateless children, education and health issues.

“Even though it is not as serious as the land issue, the government also really needs to address this otherwise it will leads to many social ills,” she said.

As of today, Suhakam Sarawak has received 26 complaints comprising various types of human rights violations while for the whole of 2018, the total was 57.

“Despite receiving the least number of human rights violation complaints in the whole country as compared to Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, Suhakam Sarawak vows to increase our effort in promoting and protecting human rights in the state,” Madeline said.

“Our plans will include rigorous engagements with the federal and state governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs), private sector and individuals,” she added.

Madeline (second right) speaking at the press conference. With her are (from right) Sophian, Alfonso and Linya.

Madeline said that Suhakam Sarawak also wants to double its efforts to improve awareness of human rights in the state.

“We will also be producing promotional materials in local dialects to raise awareness on Suhakam and its functions so that they (the public) will come to us and lodge complaints on human rights related issues.

“We don’t want people to perceive us as a “toothless tiger” in our role and responsibility,” she said.

Among those present were Suhakam Sarawak Branch head Sophian Osman and its officers Alfonso Min and Linya Subah. — DayakDaily