KUCHING, Jan 24: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has expressed strong political will to amend the Sarawak Land Code to legally recognise ‘pemakai menoa’ or territorial domain and ‘pulau galau’ or communal forest (PMPG) as native customary rights (NCR) land.
He admitted that there were ‘weaknesses’ and ‘loopholes’ in the present Sarawak Land Code which must be addressed where the government will come out with a solution that will be accepted by all including the Iban, Malay, Bidayuh, Melanau and Orang Ulu communities.
“There are certain weaknesses in our law. There are loopholes in the Land Code.
“There is the existence of PMPG in our customs. We recognise it as our customs. This existence has no force of law because it is not in our Land Code.
“The judge only interprets the law. Because it is not written in the law, that is why the cases are there.
“What we will be doing is give the force of law to PMPG through the amendment of the Land Code and it (the amendment) must be accept by all,” said Abang Johari at the press conference after the launching of the Conference for Community Leaders on PMPG today.
The cases which Abang Johari was referring to were cases where native landowner groups sued the government for ‘taking their land’ as the government deemed the land concerned as state land while the natives claimed it to be their PMPG and thus NCR land.
The chief minister also brought up the landmark court ruling from December 2016, where the native land owners of Ulu Machan, Kanowit, won the case at the High Court and Court of Appeal but lost it when the case reached the Federal Court all because the judges deemed that the practices of PMPG had no force of law.
Abang Johari said that giving PMPG a definition was the dying wish of the late Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem (Tok Nan) and the state government has the moral obligation to carry out Adenan’s will.
“Tok Nan tried to solve it, but he passed away. So morally, we have to do our job because Tok Nan had wanted to solve it,” he said.
When pressed by the media whether after the Land Code have been amended, would the land cases be ‘backdated’ whereby natives who had lost their PMPG may reclaim their land, Abang Johari however, appeared to be uncertain.
He said the state government will table a bill to amend the Sarawak Land Code after it has collected all input from different groups starting with the community leaders today, to be followed by other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and others.
Earlier in his speech, Abang Johari called on the indigenous people to be rational and not emotional, and to be patient with the state government to come out with a comprehensive solution for the land issue.
Also present were all three deputy chief ministers Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing and Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan. — DayakDaily