KUCHING, July 14: More than 500 people staged a protest in Bintulu today against the Sarawak Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018 that was passed in the State Legislative Assembly on Thursday (July 12). The protestors demanded Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud not to sign the Bill as they claimed he had a personal interest in the matter.
Holding strongly-worded placards, the protestors also held the view that the new law did not follow the Sarawak native ‘adat’ system. Among others, they were clearly unhappy with merely having usufructuary rights over ‘Pemakai Menoa’ (territorial domain) and ‘Pulau Galau’ (communal forest reserves) (PMPG) as well as the capping of native territorial domain (NTD) with a 1,000-hectare limit.
According to Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (SCRIPS) secretary-general Michael Jok, they opposed the new law for several reasons. First, the natives would merely have usufructuary rights over the PMPG.
“This usufructuary right is just right to use but not to own. This right can be applied only to non-natives who resettled in Sarawak but not the natives per se.
“So, the best solution to this PMPG problem is simply to follow the Sarawak Native Adat System. We know what to do once it is gazetted by the government,” Michael said in a statement made available to DayakDaily today.
He claimed that under the just amended law, the natives still had to apply to the Sarawak government to get back ownership of their PMPG.
“As of now, the natives are made to occupy state land and not native land any more. It is still the warlords who own Sarawak land through their PL (Provisional Lease) or LPF (Licence of Planted Forest),” he said.
Michael added that they also disagreed with the limit of 1,000 hectares for NTD under the amended law. He claimed there were many folk with PMPG of between 10,000 hectares and 50,000 hectares.
“Once it is gazetted, then it is no longer based on our ‘adat’ system, but more to the law of the land,” he lamented.
In demanding that Taib should not sign the Bill as they believed he had a personal interest in the matter, Michael warned, “We will continue to organise rallies from village to village and town to town if the law is implemented.”
He pointed out that the people of Sarawak did not vote for their elected representatives to dislodge the natives from their native customary rights (NCR) land. These elected representatives should, in fact, help affirm their ownership over it.
The protest at the Bintulu Esplanade was organised by SCRIPS, Bintulu Indigenous Civil Society and other native non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community leaders.
The controversial Bill was tabled by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas. — DayakDaily