Complaints of land use rights among Orang Asal top on Suhakam’s slate

Datuk Dr Madeline Berma

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Dec 10: Complaints of rights to land use by the Orang Asal (natives) remains one of the most frequently received issues by Suhakam Sarawak, said Sarawak Suhakam commissioner Datuk Dr Madeline Berma.

She pointed out that even though both the Malaysian constitution and the Sarawak Land Code provide protections for Native Customary Rights (NCR) land, Suhakam Sarawak continued to receive complaints of such violation.


“Suhakam Sarawak have been receiving complaints that these rights were continuously violated which prohibit the natives from using their lands in accordance with their traditional rights, to cultivate the land, for burials, to inherit and transfer,” Madeline told DayakDaily in conjunction with Human Rights Day today.

She added that under the Violations of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), there were communities in Sarawak who have been affected by megaprojects, such as dams and highways, complained that they were not consulted.

“In one case, the involvement of Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) Rajang Branch in a dialogue between Public Works Office (JKR), district office and Land and Survey Department has facilitated the smooth implementation of Pan-Borneo project whereby the relocation of several affected longhouses adheres to FPIC and the rights of the longhouse residents were respected with adequate compensation and site-preparation are arranged,” she said.

The other pertinent issue highlighted by Suhakam is undocumentation of some natives who lived in rural areas.

“There are Sarawakians, particularly the Orang Asal in the rural and interior areas who are stateless or undocumented, without MyKad.

“In the absence of official documents these Sarawakians, cannot achieve their rightful position in Malaysia in general, and Sarawak in particular,” she said.

Madeline asserted that the right of Orang Asal to education is protected by the UN Declaration on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNRIP) for the State and Federal government to commit and to provide education to all Malaysians.

“However, there are complaints in terms of access of rural communities to quality education, widening digital gap, dilapidated schools. Some are halted or denied from further higher education thus realizing their full potential as future labour workforce for the nation due to lack of documentation, which brings up the next point, statelessness or un-documented Sarawakians,” she said.

Similarly, Sadia-Rajang Branch chairman Bill Jugah said, his office has undertaken the initiative in collaboration with Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara (NRD) Sarawak to address the issue.

“A mobile counter to receive those facing this problem is due to be set up on January 15-17, 2021 in Sibu. Not less than 520 affected individuals are estimated to show up judging from the number who had approached Bill’s office,” said Bill.

Meanwhile, Madeline said the Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world to commemorate the day in 1948 at the United Nations General Assembly whereby it declared the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status It includes the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.

“Based on universal human rights, every Sarawakian is entitled to these rights, without discrimination,” she added. -DayakDaily