S4S to hold Independence Day gathering at Padang Merdeka

Dinis (left) and S4S member Rek Hal.

KUCHING, June 24: Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S) is calling all Dayak groups to turn up for the “722 Sarawak Independence Day: NCR Land” gathering at Padang Merdeka Kuching on July 22.

722 Sarawak Independence Day Committee president Dinis Repong said during the time of the Brooke Dynasty and British colonialisation, native customary rights (NCR) land of the Dayaks was always protected.

He said as Sarawak had a vast land area but small population, the High Court of Sarawak had, since 1959, given the provisions to NCR land and recognised the ownership of the Dayak community on “pemakai menoa” (territorial domain) and “pulau galau” (communal forest reserves).

The natives, he claimed, could claim NCR on two conditions. Firstly, as long as they could give evidence that the trees in the land were planted by the ancestors of their ethnic groups or as long as there is evidence of Dayak ancestral tombs on the land, which meant there were already three generations or more than three generations living on the land.

“In either case, the land is Dayak ethnic customary land,” said Dinis in a press statement today.

However, he said since the Federation of Malaysia was established in 1963, there was no federal constitution to protect the Dayak ethnic customs and traditions.

“For the Sarawak Dayak community, the return of Sarawak’s autonomous rights is to develop the rural areas, where the Dayak community in remote areas may have basic infrastructure and transportation facilities that are equivalent to urban or semi-urban areas,” he said.

He said presently the Dayak community had two major concerns: Sarawak’s autonomous rights and NCR.

“After all, Dayak ethnic groups from the mountains and the suburbs can still survive by planting and hunting. In terms of basic facilities, we can wait until Sarawak has its own capability to gradually make progress,” said Dinis.

He said the main reason for the loss of the NCR cases was they were brought to the Federal Court.

“The first time the NCR problem emerged was because of then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir (Mohamad). At that time, he initiated the construction of the Bakun Dam, which led to the controversial land ownership (disputes).”

Dinis alleged that when Bakun Dam was planned and built, land in the affected areas was taken from the natives without compensation.

“For our Sarawak Dayak ethnic group, if the Federal Constitution does not give any guarantee for NCR land, the Dayak people will choose independence for Sarawak.” — DayakDaily