Change in land policy will give recognition to NCR land, says Suhakam commissioner

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KUCHING: Only a change in the government’s land policy can give better recognition to the native customary rights land, Francis Johen, a commissioner of Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, said in an interview yesterday.

He said a change in policy must be followed by amendments to Section 5 of the Sarawak Land Code that will give recognition to pemakai menoa (territorial domain) and pulau galau (communal forest reserves).

“If there is no amendments to the land code, the customary practice over pemakai menoa and pulau galau will not be recognised,” he said, adding this was proved in the federal court’s decision in TR Sandah case.

He said only customary law which the law of Sarawak gives effect to is recognised by the court.

He said the Iban custom over pemakai menoa and pulau galau, as the federal court had rule, has no legal effect because it has no force of law.

He said it is not part of the law of Sarawak, even if it is a form of practice by the natives of Sarawak, but way of interpretation, it is not.

“So this has become an issue among the native communities. This is something which Suhakam is concerned about. It is one of the recommendations in the National Inquiry conducted in 2010-2012 because we want better recognition to the native customs in Sarawak,” Francis said.

“If you look at the native customs, the scope is wider when compared to the provisions in the land code.

“The land code only recognises the land which has been cleared, that is temuda. Now that the federal court has interpreted in TR Sandah case, so now it has become a legal issue.

“As a result of the federal court’s decision, many people are dissatisfied and discontent among the native communities.

“The state has responded with the formation of a special task force committee under Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah. There is also a working committee being formed,” Francis said.

He said Suhakam hopes that under the task force and the working committee, something positive will come out of it, in whatever forms.

He said the issues on pemakai menoa and pulau galau are both technical and legal.

“But at least, there is a positive move by the state that it is more open to consider these issues because to what extent the recognition(on pemakai menoa and pulau galau) can be given,” he said.

Francis said Suhakam supports the move by the state government to give recognition to the NCR land, especially pemakai menoa and pulau galau.

“This is consistent with our recommendations,” he said. –