Ulu Ngemah communities staunchly against development of NCR land

Thomas Laja (third left) during a press conference in Sibu on the land development matter.

KUCHING, March 29: Communities from 11 longhouses in Ulu Ngemah, Kanowit, have barred their “pemakai menoa” (territorial domain) and “pulau galau” (communal reserve) from any form of development, including agriculture.

A spokesperson for the villages, Thomas Laja, said about 80 per cent of the longhouse folks and village chiefs had declined to have their 4,800 hectares of NCR areas be developed by fellow villagers, community leaders or private companies for such purposes.

This following a recent survey carried out by the Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development Ministry.

The villagers wanted the state government to give its assurance that their land would not be disturbed, he added.

“If the majority doesn’t agree, then no one should develop the land. The survey form indicated that more than 80 per cent of the villagers from the area rejected the idea of having their land developed by anyone,” Thomas said when contacted.

He disclosed that the land was under Section 6 of the Sarawak Land Code and not under Section 18.

“Because of these surveys and to avoid any interested parties coming into these area, we want the state government and the ministry to give us their assurance that no one will come in to do anything with the forest.

“We hope no one will try to instigate the locals of the lucrativeness in developing the area,” he continued.

Thomas expressed worry that if the land were to be developed, the villagers would no longer be allowed to enter the land.

Villagers would not be able to hunt. Worse, the river risked contamination which would affect the aquatic life, he explained.

Thomas claimed that there were outsiders who came to scout the area and that even though they had informed the ministry, no officials had come to address the issue.

He added that while no one had come in to clear the land, there were individuals who had shown interest in developing the area.

“We really do not want the state government to pursue developing the land and stop outside parties from persuading the locals there of the benefits of land development.”

Villagers, suspecting some of these individuals were looking to obtain timber illegally in the area, have lodged five police reports.

He warned that any tresspassing by parties wanting to develop the land might lead to confrontations with the locals. — DayakDaily