About 1,000 attend NCR rally at Old Courthouse compound

A section of the some 1,000 people who gather for the peaceful NCR land rally at the Old Courthouse. — Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING: Some 1,000 people congregated at the Old Courthouse near the Kuching Waterfront yesterday for the peaceful native customary rights (NCR) land rally aimed at creating greater public awareness of the frustration of the natives of Sarawak over the alleged exploitation of their native land.

Organised by Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia), several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also turned up to support the cause. The rally included talks on the issue by 10 speakers.

According to the rally organising secretary Mark Bujang, it was held to call for the amendment to the provisional leases and demand for the return of NCR land to the natives.

“The provisional lease is not in the NCR Land Code and we want the government to make an amendment to it, and also to recognise (the existence of) ‘Pulau Galau’ and ‘Pemakai Menua’ and to include communal forest as part of NCR land. Additionally, land without a title belongs to the government,” he said when met during the rally.

“So the natives were filing cases because they felt their rights were not recognised, using legal system to claim back their rights. We have fought quite a number of cases,” said Mark, adding that to date, out of over 400 NCR cases still pending in court, 10 were still being heard and three had been dismissed.

The rally started off with an Iban ‘Miring’ ceremony to get favours or blessings from the gods at 7.30am at the Charles Brooke Memorial. Participants started coming to the venue as early as 7am, with some wearing Dayak or Iban traditional costumes while many wore modern clothes bearing traditional Dayak or Iban motif, emblems or logos of their respective NGOs.

At all times security personnel were present to provide security for the rally protesters and the curious onlookers. If there was any surprise, it was the no-show of protesters at the courthouse in Petra Jaya. Prior to the event, news abound that another group would stage a rally at the front of the courthouse but yesterday only a handful arrived.

However, some 100 participants held the peaceful NCR land rally behind the old State Legislative Assembly complex.

Some of participants who came earlier to the courthouse venue at 9am said they were uncertain as to what was happening that lasted almost two hours before they were told that the peaceful rally had moved to a new location at the back of the old DUN. In the end, only the police personnel were left behind at the intended venue.

Media personnel covering the event tried to seek for explanation from the organisers on the last minute change but as at press time, no reason was offered.

Prior to leaving the courthouse compound, one of the rally participants, Hilarion Bisi Jinggot, said he joined the rally to support the calling for the return of NCR land to the natives. Bisi said he himself was a victim of circumstances in several land disputes.

Crowds gather to watch the Iban Miring ceremony that included the sacrifice of a chicken. – Photo by Chimon Upon

Former Sarawak Majlis Adat Istiadat deputy president Nicholas Bawin Anggat addresses the crowd at the start of the rally. – Photo by Chimon Upon

Ramli shakes hands with Philip at the security station of the DUN complex after receiving the memorandum on matters arising at the Nov 13 peaceful rally on NCR.

Currently, he has a case pending in court, in which he claimed that he bought a plot of land legitimately through a sales and purchase agreement few years ago but now he is up against the State Attorney General’s Chambers and the Lembaga Amanah Kebajikan Darul Falah.

He said that he was very concerned about his case because by looking at the way the court decided the cases, he might also lose his land.

Not only hoping that the court would favour him, he said he would also like to see the state government resolve the issues once and for all to provide justice to the indigenous people of Sarawak.

After the rally at the Kuching Waterfront and old DUN complex areas, several members of the event organising committee led by Philip Jau handed over a memorandum on matters arising at the peaceful rally to the state government.

The presentation was held outside the new DUN complex at 2.30pm. Security personnel Ramli Kadir of the State Operations Room received the memorandum.

Almost 100 people tried to gather at the new DUN complex compound but they were not allowed to do get near the complex.

The protest yesterday marked the frustration of the natives over issues or disputes between natives and developers and state authorities on some NCR land that are still unresolved and also because of the fear that the federal court would think that it would be a win-win situation by simply validating all development schemes and let developers keep the land but pay the natives only compensation for land they lost.

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