State govt wants NCR land to remain in native owners’ hands — Uggah

Uggah (fifth from left) gets ready to beat the gong to launch the symposium.

BINTULU, Oct 26: The state government will conduct a survey to determine how much Native Customary Right (NCR) land had been sold by the landowners; and more importantly, to protect such land from changing hands.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas highlighted that the state government had given out thousands of NCR land titles over the years; thus, it wanted to find out how many such titles were still with the original owners.

“Our forefathers fought very hard to own and protect such land. We, the present generation, must ensure they continue to remain with us,” he said at the launching of the 7th Iban Cultural Symposium here on Thursday evening.

Uggah feared if the practice of selling continued unchecked, the natives would be landless in their very own land.

“I do not think we want this to happen. Let us do the survey. I will discuss with Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari (Tun Openg) on this,” he assured.

To preserve NCR land for the indigenous people, Uggah said the suggestion was to set up a special organisation to buy back such land as a last resort.

“If the land needs to be sold, let the organisation buy them. In this way, they will remain with the natives,” he explained.

Uggah revealed that he was aware of such land in prime areas changing hands, for example in Betong, Saratok and Spaoh.

On the progress of the perimeter survey, Uggah, who is also Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development, appealed to the state government to allocate funds to enable survey work to continue.

“If previously the funds come from the federal government, we are not sure now whether more funds will be forthcoming, with the change in the government,” he said.

He admitted that the progress had been slow because the state Land and Survey Department lacked manpower.

“The government has agreed with our suggestion that such a survey be given to private surveyors. This approach has been done by the Bidayuh communities in Serian and Bau, who organised themselves very well and got private surveyors to do the job,” he elaborated.

However, Uggah pointed out that a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) needed to be established before the approach could be followed. He said he would discuss this matter with the Land and Survey Department.

On another matter, he said discussions would also be held with the Attorney-General’s Office on how to elevate the status of the Native Courts to be on par with the High Court in dealing with land cases.

“Our native court is at a great disadvantage situation. Its status is low, where the magistrates are the Residents, District Officers and the Sarawak Administrative Officers, who are not trained legally so to speak.

“Now we have a situation where those who can afford it are engaging the services of lawyers, which obviously put the government administrators and the community leaders at a great disadvantage,” he highlighted.

Uggah shared that the Chief Justice of Malaysia, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, had come to see him to give his proposal to solve the matter.

“I have discussed with our chief minister and our state Attorney-General will follow up on this with Putrajaya. We hope we can get qualified judges to hear the cases, and at the end of the day, all native cases can be heard and settled in our Native Court,” he said.

Jabu exchanging pleasantries with his wife, Tan Sri Empiang, when presented with the birthday cake.

At the function, a surprise birthday event was held to celebrate the 78th birthday of former Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang.

Some 300 participants attended the four-day symposium, whose organising chairman is Kapit MP Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi.

Minister of Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom, Assistant Minister of Local Government Datu Dr Penguang Manggil, Assistant Minister of Native Laws and Customs Datuk John Sikie Tayai and Assistant Minister for Community Well-being Datuk Francis Harden Hollis were among those present. — DayakDaily