NGO says Uggah has let down PMPG owners

Henry Joseph

KUCHING, Sept 27: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas was being unfair to the owners of ‘pemakai menua’ and ‘pulau galau’ (PMPG) when he failed to explain the various sub-sections in the recently passed Sarawak Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018 that are crucial for public knowledge.

Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (SCRIPS) legal adviser Henry Joseph Usau opined that the amendment solved nothing. Instead, it raised more questions than answers.

According to him, Section 6A of the new Land Code has taken PMPG out from native customary rights (NCR) land, where all this while they have been legitimately and rightly belonged. Now it is placed in the same category as state land.

“That is why section 6A (1) insists that any native community which claim to have exercised usufructuary right over a certain native territorial domain may apply to the Director of Land and Survey Department,” he told DayakDaily today.

Henry pointed out that Uggah only gave emphasis to Section 6A(2), where the Director may allow a claim of not more than 1,000 hectares, and to sub-section (3)(b) of Section 6A where, if the Director approves, a native communal title shall be issued in perpetuity.

“But what Uggah doesn’t tell us all is the opening word “if” in Section 6A (3) that gives the Director an absolute discretion to allow or reject the claim, and there is a total absence of mechanism whatsoever how the Director would exercise that discretion,” he lamented.

He further emphasised that Uggah also did not tell the public, who have little access to the Bill until today, about section 6A(4).

“This sub-section, again, speaks for itself that sums up the contention of an absolute discretion of the Director of Land and Survey Department, where the aggrieved native community or individual may appeal to the Minister within 30 days, from the date a decision is conveyed, for the Minister to consider the appeal.

“Similar to that of the Director of Land and Survey Department, there is also absolutely no mechanism how the Minister is going to exercise his discretion to consider the appeal and, worst of all, there is no specific time frame for the Minister to consider the appeal.

“He may act quickly or till eternity or allow or reject the appeal. He may reject even if a native community comes with volumes of evidence that they have been exercising their native customary rights over what Section 6A termed as native territorial domain — PMPG lumped into one,” said Henry.

Henry, who is a former magistrate, stressed that it was not wrong for Uggah to stand by his opinion on the new amendment, but it was also equally right for people who are more qualified than him to express their legitimate and more accurate views and interpretations of the amendment.

“Uggah may give whatsoever opinion on the amendment, but it is the lawyers and judges who will ultimately interpret and judge only the bold letter of the written law, not Uggah’s press statement or speeches in the legislature or at other public functions,” said Henry.

Meanwhile, SCRIPS secretary-general Michel Jok said they felt obliged to respond to the recent statements made by Uggah and Deputy DUN Speaker Datuk Gerawat Gala.

Michael Jok

“For Uggah to label these people as ignorant and other name calling is not only mischievous but also a manifestation of arrogance of a public servant.

“As a senior politician, Uggah should give himself space to listen to legitimate expression of the people who put him where he is now and to whom he owes accountability. His master is not the chief minister nor the attorney-general but the people, including those attending the conference on Sept 17, 2018, who pool their taxes together to pay his salary and other perks.

“Hence, their constitutional rights, legitimate needs and expectations should be of his concern,” added Michael.

Michael agreed with lawyer Paul Raja that Uggah should accept the call for a public debate to give the opportunity to convince the Dayak masses that his (Uggah’s) interpretation of the law is correct. — DayakDaily