Land Code amendment offers perpetual ownership, says Uggah

Uggah (seated, centre) at a press conference on the sidelines of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly sitting today (July 11, 2018). Seated on his right is Dennis and on his left is Rentap. Standing at right is Machan assemblyman Allan Siden Gramong while standing at left is Serembu assemblyman Miro Simuh.

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KUCHING, July 11: The controversial Sarawak Land Code Amendment Bill 2018 when passed will allow the native communities to have ownership in perpetuity for their territorial domain of at least 500 hectares which is ‘over and above’ the present Native Customary Rights land that they own, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas today.

Due to the pleas and requests of many elected representatives, Uggah said the government will consider increasing the land size to more than 500 ha.

According to Uggah, the additional terminology “territorial domain” used in the Bill includes ‘Pemakai Menoa’ and ‘Pulau Galau’ (PMPG) for the Iban community or ‘tempat cari makan’ for the Malays whereby the land will now by recognised by the law with perpetuity titles.

“So I want to make it clear that with this new land amendment, the natives of Sarawak do not lose any of their land established under Section 5 which is NCR (native customary rights) land. And additionally, the territorial domain, we will fix it at 500 ha.

“Let me make it clear that the 500 ha is ‘over and above’ the present NCR land which before this was described as the virgin jungle which was described as PMPG,” said Uggah at a press conference on the sidelines of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly Sitting here today.

Ha said the Bill was able to be tabled in the august House after a long discussion which took the government over one-and-a-half years to complete.

“And we feel that at the moment, (with the passing of the Bill), once we promise something, we must make sure it is honoured. It took us one-and-a-half years to decide on this matter,” he said.

When asked whether the 500 ha could be extended further as requested by almost all GPS backbencher assemblymen and women, he said, “I think we know what to do. We will discuss the matter with the Chief Minister as I am not the final authority. I have to talk to my boss about the proposal. We are listening to reasonable proposals.”

Most areas where the natives still have large tracts of land are found in Hulu Rajang, Baram and pockets of other areas throughout Sarawak.

“Once again I want to repeat that this Bill means that the 500 ha of territorial domain is ‘over and above’ the NCR land,” he reiterated.

Among those who requested that the territorial domain be expanded were Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau, who argued that the 500 ha meant for each longhouse or village should be extended to a size in accordance with the number of longhouse doors, the total population of the longhouse as well as the size of that particular village.

“However, I will leave this to the government to evaluate my proposal to the best of the people’s requests,” he said while debating the Bill at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly today.

Layar assemblyman Gerald Rentap Jabu also urged the government not to limit the territorial domain to just 500 ha.

“However, I seek that there will be no limitation on the size to be claimed. It can be more than 500 ha. Let the native community prove their claims. This is because, due to the customs and inherent traditional beliefs, that beholden to their ancestors, the natives thrive on the value of honesty.

“Secondly, the issuance of title should be free of premiums and other charges like issuance of Section 18 grants to natives. There should be no difference and limitations on those ‘temuda’ land and native territorial domain,” he said.

Rentap also supported repealing Section 28 on issuance of provisional lease as this has been the bone of contention for all disputes and court cases.

“Let the Land and Survey Department utilise their resources to ensure that any land title given out is not in conflict with any claim especially on native territorial domain,” added Rentap. — DayakDaily