Uggah: Land Code amendments will be ready for tabling at next DUN sitting

Sarawak Legislative Assembly Sitting, November 2017

KUCHING, Nov 17: The amendments to the Land Code relating to ‘pemakai menoa’ and ‘pulau galau’ will be ready for tabling in May 2018 State Legislative Assembly sitting.

Announcing this today, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said the task force is looking into the issues holistically and will work out proposals to amend the Land Code.

“The government is actively studying amendments to the Land Code and is committed to resolve all issues related to native customary rights (NCR) by having its own Bill to amend the Land Code. We are also considering amendments to other related laws such as the Native Customs (Declarations) Ordinance 1996, the Native Courts Ordinance 1992, the Interpretation Ordinance 2005 and the codified Natives’ ‘Adat’,” Uggah said in his winding-up speech at the State Assembly sitting today.

Such detailed and comprehensive exercise inevitably requires more time to come with the proposed holistic amendments so that issues pertaining to rights to Native Customary Land could be resolved, he said.

He gave his assurance that the state government has always been consistent in its stand to respect and recognise the rights of its people as provided by law.

This also applies to the people’s rights to their NCR land as provided by the Sarawak Land Code.

The recent heightened interest and public debate on NCR land is a direct consequence of the decision of the Federal Court, in the case of Director of Forest, Sarawak & Anor v. TR Sandah & Ors, where the court ruled that the practice of ‘pemakai menoa’ and ‘pulau galau’, although practised and recognised as part of the Iban custom, does not have legal effect.

In other words, although the custom relating to ‘pemakai menoa’ and ‘pulau galau’ is part of the Iban custom, such custom does not have the force of law.

Therefore, the use and occupation of land pursuant to such customary practice of ‘pemakai menoa’ and ‘pulau galau’ does not constitute or establish NCR over such land.

The Federal Court recently, ruled that ‘the custom on ‘pemakai menoa’ and ‘pulau galau’ was never recognised in relation to creation of customary rights to land, in any of the Orders made and legislation passed by or during the Brooke era or by the State Legislature.’

The said custom is also not expressly provided for in any of the codified Natives’ ‘Adat’, like the Tusun Tunggu and Adat Iban, 1993.

“The said Federal Court ruling has wide-ranging implications, thereby causing anxieties and concerns, among the natives of Sarawak. Various reactions were expressed by many parties, such as the native community at large, politicians, Dayak-based NGOs and concerned individuals, requesting the state government to find ways to resolve the issue,” Uggah said, giving assurance that the state government is very much aware of the implications of the Federal Court ruling to the natives of Sarawak.

He added that as to date, the task force has met 12 times since it was first set up in March this year.

“We are not keeping quiet or inactive, as many people alleged. Far from it! These active discussions and engagements were not publicised as we do not believe in gaining political mileage on matters close to the people’s heart, neither do we believe in arousing the rakyat’s sentiment,” Uggah asserted. — DayakDaily