‘Land resource development needs to be overhauled fairly, sustainably’

The police have given permission for the Nov 13 Rally (picture supplied).

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KUCHING, Nov 2: Land resource development in the state needs to be re-thought entirely, both in urban and rural areas, to provide a reasonable and sustainable income for rural residents and certainty for all landowners, regardless of race and religion.

Peter John Jaban, one of the co-ordinators of the Nov 13 Rally stressed that procedures for renewing land leases and for proper distribution of land for public purposes in urban centres must also be reviewed.

“The land issues in the state are every Sarawakian’s problem. It is our ‘Ibu Pertiwiku, tanah airku’ as stated in our State Anthem. This is why SADIA (Sarawak Dayak Iban Association) and S4S (Sarawak 4 Sarawakians) are calling on all concerned citizens of Sarawak to come out for the rally on Nov 13, held concurrently at the new Court House and the Waterfront, to press the state government for an immediate and wide-ranging solution to the problem,” said Peter John in a press statement today.

He said the police who have been notified of the rally, will be providing their full assistance in accordance with the Peaceful Assembly Act.

“It is our chance, as citizens, to make sure the state government fully understands that the wishes of the people of Sarawak are not necessarily the same as the mega-developers, and palm oil and timber giants who are enriching themselves on the resources of ordinary landowners.

“Land must increase the economy of the entire state, from the grassroots, and not just a select few.”

He held the view that land development has been used as a tool for many years and not always for the benefit of the people.

“International research evidence shows that rural smallholders are better custodians of the environment and, even more importantly, obtain better yield from their land.

“Countries like South Korea built their early economic development in their post-war years on a restructuring of rural landownership to ensure an income for smallholders that would be spent at home instead of being siphoned off by the mega-wealthy for investment abroad.

“Sarawak could learn many lessons from their economic growth model.  Sarawak must also heed the warning words of Rajah Charles Brooke  — ‘Unless you follow this advice you will lose your birthright, which will be taken from you by strangers and speculators who will in their turn become masters and owners, whilst you yourselves, you people of the soil, will be thrown aside, and become nothing but coolies and outcasts of the island’.”

“If we want to live in a state where landowners can feel secure in their homes, if we want to live in a state where land is provided for genuine public facilities, if we want to live in a state which promotes the incomes of the most needy among us, then it is your duty to come out to show your support,” said John Peter.

He said the residents of the historic Kampung Boyan across the river in Kuching are also facing relocation, presumably to make way for commercial development, the proceeds of which they are unlikely to share in.

“All landowners face the regular spectre of having to renew their land leases and the uncertainty of whether this will be granted.  Ordinary citizens of Sarawak deserve to feel that their lifetime investment will be safe and that land will be used for the betterment of the public as a whole.

“Do we want to live in a state where our urban landowners are facing the uncertainty of the current development policy which puts commercial gain over public good?

“Do we want to live in a state where the most marginalised and impoverished members of society are being systematically divested of their last remaining source of income, often without any form of compensation, in favour of huge plantation owners and West Malaysian groups like FELDA and Tabung Haji?

“Soon we will see our rural Sarawak entirely occupied by these giants and their overseas workforce while our urban centres are swamped by rural migrants, putting a strain on resources and consigning our rural folks’ enormous expertise in land tenure to the dustbin of history.”

He stressed land issues are neither just a Dayak issue nor just a rural issue.

“This is an issue for all Sarawak’s peoples. Join the gathering at either the new Court House or the Waterfront at the Old Courthouse at 9am on 13 November.”

“Make sure your voice is heard, whether you have land issues or not.  Let us show the international media and NGOs expected to attend that the people of Sarawak are prepared to stand up for each other and that the words of our state anthem really mean something to all of us.

“We must build the Sarawak we all want to live in – a Sarawak of harmony, fairness, solidarity and economic certainty for all the people, whatever their race, religion or background.  We are all equally Anak Sarawak,” said Peter John. — DayakDaily