Native NGOs demand GPS Dayak reps resign, Land Code (Amendment) Bill 2018 repealed

Paul (second left) interviewed by the media during a peaceful protest held in Bintulu on July 14, 2018. - file photo

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KUCHING, July 16: Furious with the recently passed Sarawak Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018, several native civil societies have jointly demanded that Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and all Dayak assemblymen from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) resign from their posts and the Bill be repealed.

The native civil societies include Dayak National Congress (DNC), Sarawak Dayak Graduate Association (SDGA), Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU), Persatuan Kepolisan Komuniti Sarawak (PKKS), Dayak Think Tank Group (DTTK), Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (SCRIPS), Vaie and Kedayan, Persatuan Dayak Sarawak (PEDAS) and other Dayak groups. They collectively call themselves “Joint Indigenous Civil Societies in Solidarity”, and they have joined forces with the indigenous communities in Niah, Bintulu, Tatau, Selangau, Miri and Baram to fight for this cause.

“Uggah and his Dayak GPS YBs (assemblymen) have proven themselves to be totally useless to the native communities. They failed miserably in their duties and are the very ones who killed our customs of ‘pemakai menoa’ and ‘pulau galau’ (PMPG) by tabling and passing the bill,” said DNC president Paul Raja in a statement today, on behalf of the grouping.

‘Pemakai Menoa’ (PM) refers to territorial domain, while ‘Pulau Galau’ (PG) refers to communal forest reserves.

Claiming complete insincerity on the part of the government, Paul spelt out its four features that “effectively kill the native custom of PMPG”.

These features are (a) the downgrading of native land rights status to ‘usufractuary right’, (b) limiting the area of customary land rights to a meagre 1,000 hectares, (c) the need to obtain permits from the Land and Survey Department to own the land, and (d) absence of provisions for PG.

Paul said the term “ususfractuary” right was a derogatory term used by condescending colonial officers who detested the native customary land tenure. They had regarded them as destructive and uncivilised.

“Why does the bill use the term when our customs are proprietary rights, i.e. rights in land instead of usufractuary rights, which is merely a right to use?

“We are now an independent and modern nation, and the term ‘usufractuary’ is totally deprecating to our native customary rights (NCR). It humiliates our honour and dignity as First Nation people,” he argued.

He also wondered who would own the land after the natives claimed their 1,000 PMPG. He alleged that the remainder of the land would go to GPS leaders and elected representatives, to Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, and to the six biggest timber companies in the state.

“The notorious Big 6 timber and plantation companies in the state alone hold a total of 3,724,675 hectares or 9,203,545 acres of timber concession. What is the basis for six companies to have 3.7 million hectares but the native communities cannot have what has always been theirs?” asked Paul.

He said the Iban inherited PM from their ancestors, who created the land rights hundreds of years ago.

“Why insult our ancestors that now we have to get approval from the Land and Survey Department? Can we call back our ancestors from the grave to apply to the Land and Survey Department?”

“If we have to get permit from the Land and Survey for PM, then it is no longer customary rights land. What we get from the Land and Survey Department is statutory rights. That is not what we are asking for.”

Paul further pointed out that the new bill did not provide for PG, thus killing the customs of PG. This, he said, was worse than before PMPG was given the force of law.

“The GPS government is robbing the people of their PM, which is easily 20,000 to 30,000 hectares or more. With the new law, they are giving the natives back only 1,000 hectares. That is outrageously daylight robbery on the part of the government.”

“While ministers cry in the DUN, the native communities are now crying and mourning in the longhouses throughout the length and breadth of Sarawak over the demise of their customs of PMPG,” lamented Paul. — DayakDaily