NGO plans massive signature drive for its ‘Indigenous People Declaration’

Scrips’ secretary-general Michael Jok delivering his speech on native land issues at a hotel in Bintulu recently.

KUCHING, August 2: Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (Scrips) plans to hold roadshows across the state to gather one million signatures for its ‘Indigenous People Declaration’, which strives to gain recognition for their ‘adat’ with regards to ‘pemakai menoa’ and ‘pulau galau’ (PMPG).

This non-governmental organisation (NGO) plans to send this proposed declaration to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, among others.

To achieve the aim, Scrips wants to encourage all indigenous communities to demarcate their respective boundaries with regards to PMPG. ‘Pemakai menoa’ refers to territorial domain, while ‘pulau galau’ refers to communal forest reserves.

“We are going to involve people with different expertise in the ‘adat’ and the laws of the country. Once this demarcation of community boundaries is done, we will prepare an ‘Indigenous People Declaration’ to be signed by all concerned,” Scrips said in a press statement today.

Scrips hopes to get one million indigenous people to sign this declaration. Once done, it will be sent to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Queen Elizabeth II, Yang di-Pertua Negeri, Malaysian prime minister, British prime minister, chief minister, deputy chief minister 1, Bukit Aman, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), United Nations, and Heads of Commonwealth countries.

The statement added that the demarcation work must be done by every traditional indigenous community, and it needed to be duly signed by the headmen and endorsed by the penghulu of that area; this is because many officials in the Land and Survey Department and politicians do not seem to understand the ‘adat’ of the indigenous people of Sarawak.

“This kind of initiative is purely done based on the ‘adat’ of the indigenous communities since time immemorial in Borneo. It is also their constitutional right as affirmed in the Federal Constitution.

“We must also respect the Malaysia Agreement (MA63), whereby the ‘tanah adat’ was one of the 18 points put to the Cobbold Commission,” it said.

The statement urged all community leaders to work closely with those who are doing the demarcation work.

“Once demarcation of the territorial domain is completed, we will prepare an agreement of mutual consent between the headmen or headwomen.

“But in the case of disputes on the boundary, we will also prepare another set of agreement for the parties to settle them amicably. The disputed areas will be marked in their respective community maps,” it assured.

The statement reiterated that as a country that practises democracy, the people had voted for their representatives with the hope that they would defend their rights, especially with regards to PMPG.

“We voted for our respective ‘wakil rakyat’ with the hope that they will make good and just laws and policies for us, but the recent amendment was like getting bad to worse.

“Therefore, we demand the government of the day to give due respect to our rights as people of the land. Failing to do so, we will surely vote you out in the coming election (due in 2021),” it cautioned.

Scrips was reacting to the recent Sarawak Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018 which was tabled by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and later passed in the State Legislative Assembly.

However, Scrips is against the following aspects of the Bill: (1) downgrading the status of native land rights to ‘usufructuary’ right, (2) limiting the area of PMPG to a mere 1,000ha, (3) the need to get permit from Land and Survey Department, and (4) the absence of provision for ‘pulau galau’. — DayakDaily