Bidayuh community has very little of PMPG left, says paramount chief

Temenggong Austin Dimin

KUCHING, Sept 28: While other native communities are fighting hard for their “pulau galau” and “pemakai menua” (PMPG) due to the large area that they have inherited from their forefathers, the Bidayuhs, on the other hand, have not much of PMPG left as most of it has been cultivated before 1958 and thus falls under native customary right (NCR).

According to Bidayuh paramount chief Temenggong Austin Dimin, most of the Bidayuh community’s PMPG, which is referred to as tu’an or tuwan in the Bidayuh language, has been cultivated, and the size of the remaining communal reserve has been shrinking as they have been opened up for agriculture purposes.

“Most of the tu’an or tuwan that we have are shrinking, and we do not have much left. Nevertheless, we are very thankful to the Sarawak government for the amendment to the Sarawak Land Code that gives ‘force of law’ to the little communal reserve land that we have,” Dimin told DayakDaily here today.

However, he acknowledged that there were several Bidayuh communities that have more than 1,000 hectares of PMPG or tu’an/tuwan but that it is normally shared among many villages.

“So to me, they will have no problem of claiming the maximum size 1,000 hectares per community, be it in Bau, Padawan/Penrissen or Serian areas,” he stressed.

He was commenting on the many the statements issued by various native communities and NGOs regarding the matter, especially those who have large tracts of land under PMPG.

Yesterday, DayakDaily reported Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (SCRIPS) legal advisor Henry Joseph Usau as saying that Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas had failed to explain the various sub-sections in the new Sarawak Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018 that are crucial for public knowledge. He said it was unfair for the owners of PMPG.

As such, Henry said, the amendment solved nothing but has instead raised more questions than answers.

According to him, Section 6A of the new Land Code has taken PMPG out from native customary right (NCR) land, where all this while they have been legitimately and rightly belonged, and now has instead placed it on the same category as state land.

Section 6A (1) insists that any native community which claim to have exercised usufructuary right over a certain native territorial domain may apply to the Director of Land and Survey Department.

Henry also highlighted that Uggah only gave emphasis to section 6A(2), where the Director may allow a claim of not more than 1,000 hectares and sub-section (3)(b) of section 6A where, if the Director approves, a native communal title shall be issued in perpetuity.

“But what Uggah doesn’t tell us all is the opening word “if” in Section 6A (3) that gives the Director absolute discretion to allow or reject the claim and a total absence of mechanism whatsoever how the Director would exercise that discretion,” Henry continued.

He further explained that Uggah also did not tell the public, who have little access to the Bill, until yesterday about Section 6A(4).

“This sub-section, again, speaks for itself that sums up the contention of an absolute discretion of the Director of Land and Survey Department, where the aggrieved native community or individual may appeal to the Minister within thirty days from the date decision is conveyed, for the Minister to consider the appeal.

“Similar to that of the Director of Land and Survey Department, there is also absolutely no mechanism how the Minister is going to exercise his discretion to consider the appeal and, worst of all, there is no specific time frame for the Minister to consider the appeal.

“He may act quickly or till eternity or allow or reject the appeal. He may reject even if a native community comes with volumes of evidence that they have been exercising their native customary right over what section 6A termed as native territorial domain – PMPG lumped into one,” added Henry, who is a former magistrate. — DayakDaily