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KUCHING, Nov 12: A huge crowd is expected at either the Kuching Waterfront near the Old Courthouse or at the new Courthouse in Petra Jaya, the scene of the ruling for the Tuai Rumah Sandah case last year which has set the precedent for the loss of 14 land cases by the native communities since.
Tomorrow’s Nov 13 Rally to protest against the land policies currently in place is drawing in associations, organisations and representatives from across the political divide, the social spectrum and the state.
The rally will start as 9am at two venues — Kuching Waterfront and the new Courthouse in Petrajaya — and will end at 2pm.
Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) and other indigenous people communities are calling on all concerned Sarawakians who feel the injustice of the current policies to visit one site or the other from 9am onwards.
“At 2pm, the rally will end with the delivery of a final, desperate memorandum to the State Legislative Assembly by 12 paramount chiefs, each horrified by the loss of the lands their forefathers put in their care,” said Peter John Jaban, one of the organisers of the event.
He said there are many interested parties who are campaigning on this same issue.
“We expect a large crowd. You will see logos and banners from so many organisations showing the huge range of groups who feel strongly about this issue. All we want is for everyone who attends to make sure they are here in support of the issue of the day and that is the (NCR) ‘land’ issue.
“We believe that we would face a hard time to stop those who are there trying to promote their own agenda or their own organisations.
“But we hope that they will remain focused on what is important rather than petty politics or personal gain. This day is about the future of Sarawak as a whole, the very land that we all live on and love. This is an issue that should be at the heart of all Sarawakians,” said Peter John in a press statement today.
He added that he personally worked in the Land and Survey Department for 20 years, having been attached to various sections in the department and ending his service in the Cartography section based at the department’s headquarters.
“I have seen first-hand how the procedures and policies have shifted over the last thirty years away from supporting individual and community landowners towards promoting the needs of a very small minority in the state.
“In the end, I could not stand it anymore and I had to leave to fight for a better future. Sadly, now things are even worse. West Malaysian groups like FELDA and Tabung Haji are now gaining a foothold in the state.
“This is a reflection of the current policy of land management, promoting large-scale plantation companies over empowering smallholders and community cooperatives where the Land and Survey (Department) procedures have been steadily altered to implement this.
“If the state government really wants to promote ordinary citizens, they need to radically change this policy and the public servants will follow,” said Peter John.
He added that it is time for them to resurrect Part V of the Land Code which was frozen in 2000 under an internal decision by the Land and Survey Department.
“In my day at the department, Part V was used as a Settlement exercise under which the Settlement Officer at Land and Survey could gazette areas of land, in consultation with local communities, for a settlement operation.
“Then a title would be issued under Section 18. For all those indigenous people who live on NCR lands in Santubong, Rambungan, Merdang, Tabuan and Stampin, they owe their land rights to this part of the Land Code.
“Why is it no longer in use and who decided internally to stop its application? This could be used to help all these desperate people who are so terrified and horrified by the loss of their birthright. If the state government is sincere in wanting to help these people, they have the tools at their disposal,” said Peter John.
He said the Sarawak Land Code has been amended several times in the last few decades. However, there is still incredible confusion over certain legal positions, especially concerning ‘pemakai menoa’ and ‘pulau galau’.
“Any indigenous person in the state understands these two ideas as among the most important parts of our ‘adat’. But yet, even though the ‘adat’ is law in Sarawak under the Native Courts Ordinance 1992, we now have a Federal Court judgment stating that they have no force in law.
“It is no wonder that every Dayak feels frustrated and angry that this central part of the customary law and ancient practice has been cast aside. It is as if the most important part of our culture and practice has no meaning in the state we belong to.
“Section 5 (f) of the Land Code 1958 recognised the creation of NCR land through ‘any other lawful means’. In the past, this was always understood to be the ‘adat’. The state government has been pushing to remove this clause from the Land Code, however this has not yet been gazetted and therefore it remains in force. How is it that no court case has ever touched on what this clause means?” he questioned.
Peter John called on Sarawakians to stick together and show their support for all the indigenous people of Sarawak and for all the Anak Sarawak who want a better place to call their own where social justice and empowerment, fairness and respect are part of the Sarawakian way. — DayakDaily