Baru questions Sarawak govt sincerity in protecting NCR land rights

Baru Bian (file photo)

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By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, Nov 6: The Sarawak government does not fully recognise the native customary rights of the people to their land in accordance with their adat or customs, opined state Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) chairman Baru Bian.

The Ba’ Kelalan assemblyman said much had been said and debated about the Pemakai Menoa (territorial domain) and Pulau Galau (communal forest reserve), as well as Section 6 and Section 18 of the Sarawak Land Code, but the issue remained unsolved.

“The matter could have been resolved if not for the Sarawak government’s appeal in the tuai rumah Sandah case to challenge the decision in the Nor Nyawai and Madeli Salleh cases in court.

“The landmark Nor Nyawai decision, which made it clear that the adat of Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau has the force of law in Sarawak, which had been affirmed in the Madeli Salleh case by the Federal Court,” he said.

Baru questioned the state government on why they appealed the tuai rumah Sandah decision as well as the Nor Nyawai decision in court despite claiming to recognise native customary rights of the people.

He asserted that such contradictory act by the state government was the cause of the continuing problems faced by the people in claiming their NCR.

“Our recent attempt to review the decision in tuai rumah Sandah which held that the native custom of Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau had no force of law was denied by the Federal Court.

“It is noteworthy that before the decision in tuai rumah Sandah at the Federal Court, there were at least eight decisions including Court of Appeal decisions that confirmed the decision in Nor Nyawai,” Baru said.

On the issue of Section 6 and Section 18 surveys under the Sarawak Land Code, Baru reiterated his position that the preferred method of survey should be Section 18.

This is because the title definitely conferred individual ownership of NCR land to the holder, the title was recognised as perpetuity and there was no need to pay premiums on the title.

“On the other hand, Section 6 title is the opposite, whereby the land is deemed as state land and no compensation will be payable in the event the state acquires the land for public purposes.

“As for the meaning of ‘usufructuary’ right under Section 6A, the deputy chief minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas may say that it means ‘can use, can own’ but the position has yet to be tested in court,” Baru explained, adding that the Land Code Amendment Ordinance 2018 does not give such meaning.

Therefore, he asserted that Section 18 titles were preferred over Section 6 and in order to avoid unnecessary conflict, the state government should confine their surveys and issuance of titles to those provided under Section 18. — DayakDaily