Conference told NCR land surveyed under Section 6 is state land

Group photo of participants at the PBDSB closed door conference on NCR in Sibu on Jan 26, 2019.

KUCHING, Jan 28: Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDSB) president Cobbold John says native customary rights (NCR) land are being surveyed pursuant to Section 6 of the Land Code, thereby, constituting it as Native Communal Reserve land.

Thus, since land surveyed under Section 6 is state land, this means it is land that belongs to the state government.

Cobbold said that as such it would give rise to conflict of ownership between the natives and Provisional Lease (PL) holders following the issuance of PLs pursuant to Section 28 to statutory bodies, GLCs, companies or individuals.

“PL holders shall not be allowed to enter unsurveyed land which is clearly stated under Section 28. No state land shall be alienated under this code unless and until the survey of the land has been completed to the satisfaction of the Land Superintendent, hence, a survey is required before alieanation,” he said in a statement.

The issue was highlighted by PBDSB at a closed door conference on NCR titled “Pulau Galau/Pemakai Menoa – Dayak Way Forward” held at its Central Region head office in Sibu on Jan 26.

Cobbold also pointed out that whatever land is given to the Dayaks under Section 6, which is state land, has no or lesser financial value.

“There is no assurance given that the land that was surveyed under Section 6 will be subsequently issued (titles) under Section 18. In fact, the landowner will be asked to provide evidences and (list of) chronological events which will create further question after question,” he lamented.

PBDSB member Christopher Sawan said that in law, land constituted and gazzetted under Section 6 is a communal reserve regulated by customary law of the community for which it is declared.

“It is my intrepetation that, communal reserve created following a perimeter survey is no longer (under) NCR; it is state land,” he added.

Christopher said that under Section 6 (sub section 3), individual members of the native community who occupied the Communal Reserve for whom it is created or perimeter surveyed are not legal owners.

“The case law to this effect is the decision of the Court of Appeal in the Sagau Bala case of Bario. Further, in law the whole community holds or occupies the Communal Reserve Land created only as licencesee of the state government. This is the effect and/or operation of Section 6 sub section 3. The Director of Land and Survey is not obligated to issue document of titles to it,” he further explained.

He also pointed out that Section 6 (Sub Section 4) empowers the minister (both under the original and amended Section 6 sub section 4) to terminate the communal reserve created.

“All that is needed is for him to publish a notice in a gazette to declare it no longer a Communal Reserve. The law does not require him to inform or give prior notice to members of the native community in occupation of his intention to terminate the Communal Reserve. The termination also shall terminate all Native Rights. That is to say members of the community no longer have any rights in the said land.

“In summary, by implication, the perimeter surveyed under Section 6 is state land of which the minister is empowered to terminate by publishing a gazette notification to declare that the area or part of it is no longer a Communal Reserve,” he said.

The head of the PBDSB NCR Bureau Mathew Jeluing said that he acknowledged the amendment of Sarawak Land Code (SLC).

He said that the amended Section 6 only recognises the existance of “pemakai menoa” and “pulau galau” but it did not give ownership rights over the NCR land.

“Therefore, the amendment of the Section 6 is questionable and in fact the NCR surveyed under Section 6 will be converted from Customary Land into Communal Reserve. Thereby, it is the responsibility of the NCR land owner to protect their rights in a lawful manner, which includes seeking a court review pertaining the intepretation of Section 6,” he said.

PBDSB urged NCR landowners to be fully aware of the existing land code and the implication of the latest amendment, and to consult legal experts on the matter or the PBDSB NCR Bureau, and for NCR landowners not to take action on their own to avoid conflicts.

The event were attended by close to 200 participants from Belaga, Bakun, Kapit, Kanowit, Betong, Saratok, Kuching, Sri Aman, Julau, Sibu and other places. Among those present were Dr Elli Luhat, Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak secretary-general Michael Jok and community leaders. — DayakDaily