Dayak NGOs slam govt’s response towards NCR land issues

File picture showing native land owners going on a hunting trip not far from their village.

KUCHING, Nov 1: Three Dayak-based NGOs released a strongly-worded joint statement today in what many will interpret as a sign of the Dayak community’s increasing frustration over the state government’s seeming apathy towards native customary rights (NCR) issues.

Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association (SDGA), Dayak National Congress (DNC) and Pemansang Dayak (PD) said they were ‘greatly disappointed’ with the latest development and with the Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas’s statement on the issue of ‘pemakai menoa’ and ‘pulau galau’ (PMPG) yesterday.

They warned the government must not leave the problem it has created for the court to resolve, because the courts only interpret existing laws.

“The power and mandate to resolve this NCR land problem is now and the government must act. Don’t wait. Your mandate will expire soon. Don’t ever come and beg the Dayak community for another five years’ mandate if this problem you created remains unresolved.

“We echo what has been said by our friend, the SDGA President (Dr Dusit Jaul) yesterday, so long as the PMPG issue remains unresolved, expect more protests to come. It is just a natural reaction by the community to show our displeasure and dissatisfaction for brazen grabbing and stealing of our NCR lands.”


Yesterday, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas had urged local NCR landowners not to take to the streets to protest as it will not solve the problem. He was responding to news that a peaceful protest will be staged at the Federal Court in Putrajaya on Nov 7 and the second outside the Sarawak Legislative Assembly Complex on Nov 13 while the state legislative assembly is in session.

Uggah had also said that the biggest challenge the state PMPG Committee faces is coming up with one definition which everyone agrees on, and that it will take time.

However, the three NGOs pointed out that the protests are part of the community’s efforts to highlight the long-unresolved issue.

“Belittling the efforts of the Dayak community to get the government to notice, understand and solve their NCR land problems shows callousness and total lack of regards for the Dayak community’s basic human rights.

“It also speaks volume of the government’s attitude towards the community – that is lack of respect. They only look up for the community for votes during election.”

The NGOs also slammed the Dayak ministers for not speaking up for the community when its members were murdered, attacked or bullied over their NCR lands, citing the Bakong incident in the 1990s, Niah incident in 1990s and 2000s, the Bekelit incident which happened a few years ago, the murder of Dayak rights activist Bill Kayong, the Balingian incident last year, the recent Bau incident and many more.

“We are watching with horror at how our people are treated with sheer contempt on their NCR lands by our so-called leaders. All these times, when our communities are mistreated over our lands, there is deafening silence. It is totally out of place for our own Dayak leaders to trifle with our efforts to resolve our problems – which the government itself has created. The least they could do is to sympathise instead of chiding the community’s efforts.”

The NGOs also questioned what is the alleged difficulty in defining ‘pemakai menoa’ as the Majlis Adat Istiadat has already defined the term long ago.

“If the government comes up with a new definition of ‘pemakai menoa’, that is tantamount to legislating – changing the custom of ‘pemakai menoa’. That will bring chaos and confusion amongst the Dayak community who have been living and organising their lives within the ‘pemakai menoa’ system.

“The government’s continuous statements of its seriousness are not proven with actions. While the government talks about resolutions, at the same time, they keep on appealing against the courts’ decisions that recognise NCR lands of the natives. We want to ask the government, where is your sincerity?”

The NGOs said all the NCR land problems arose out of the government’s policy in issuing provisional leases/leases (PLs), licence to plant forests (LPFs) and timber license over NCR lands.

“Let’s make it clear here — we are not against development. But what appalls us is the way development is abused — at the expense of we natives, Dayaks and Malay-Melanau alike — by taking away our NCR lands illegally and without our knowledge and consent.

“What we see is the opposite of what the government preaches — the government is just taking us for a ride; and we are tired of the empty promises and we have enough of this crap. The government’s political rhetoric of recognising NCR lands, election after election, is just a farce to induce Dayak votes.”

The NGOs said the government must undertake four measures to show its sincerity: withdraw all appeals against the decisions of the courts recognising PMPG; stop issuing PLs and LPFs immediately; review and revoke any PLs and LPFs that fails to comply with their conditions; and establish a mechanism and tribunal to settle all NCR land disputes. — DayakDaily