By Peter Simon
KUCHING, February 8, 2017 - Native customary rights (NCR) land lawyer Baru Bian has asked Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas to rope in Dayak non-governmental organisations and NCR land experts as members of the Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau committee.
Baru Bian says he is concerned that representatives of the State Attorney-General's Office are roped in as members of the Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau committee.
Saying that he welcomes the formation of the committee, but he expresses his concern that among the members of the Committee are representatives from the Attorney-General’s Office and the Majlis Adat Istiadat.
"But there is no mention of representatives from organisations such as SADIA, experts including Nicholas Bawin and Jayl Langub, and members of academia.
"It should be noted that the State Attorney General’s Office is the originator of this problem, having opposed the Dayaks and their lawyers in court over this matter and wrongly advising the government," Baru said in a statement today.
Noting that Uggah's statement that he will do ‘in-depth’ studies on issues related to Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau, Baru urges him and his committee not to take too long with this ‘in-depth’ study, but it t would be advisable for him to look into all the case laws pertaining to these issues, particularly the celebrated case of Nor Nyawai, which is easily accessible.
"The concept of Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau has already been extensively debated in the courts of law, with references to the history and the understanding and definition of native customary rights land from various experts in the field, past and present.
"This is a universal concept that is recognised in other jurisdictions for the indigenous groups in those countries.
"Consistent with this development, and notwithstanding the pending outcome of the judicial review in the TR Sandah case, the state government should take cognisance of the accepted universal concept of native customary rights land which includes the virgin jungle where the indigenous communities forage for food, hunting and fishing, and take steps to formally recognise these rights by legislating on the matter.
"This is the very reason that I have made attempts to pass a motion and table a private member’s bill on amending the Sarawak Land Code.
"Many members of the Native community have expressed their deep concern over this issue and are looking to Uggah and the new Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Openg to resolve the matter.
"Again I wish to say this: there are no two ways about it but to amend the Sarawak Land Code if the State Government is serious about protecting the NCR land of the native community in Sarawak.
"I am aware that some people are concerned that the recognition of such adat may cause huge areas of land to be subject to claims by the natives.
"This is not true as claims of NCR land are subject to proof. More importantly the adat must first be recognised and accepted by the powers that be.
"This problem needs to be resolved speedily as it not only affects the native community. There is an economic impact as well in the fact that foreign investors may have no confidence in the Sarawak government for lack of adherence to human rights requirements.
"The government has never really addressed this problem, as shown by the unrelenting appeals filed by the State Attorney General’s office in NCR cases. I hope the DCM will be able to make some positive changes in this matter," Baru, who is also Ba'Kelalan state assemblyman and Sarawak PKR chairman, said.
Uggah, who is heading the committee, had said yesterday that he had set a time frame of three months for the committee to complete the study on cultures, practices, definition, history and all other factors involved in the Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau.
The study, he added, would be submitted to the chief minister before it is tabled in the state cabinet meeting.