KUCHING: State PKR deputy youth chief Simon Siah says Muara Tuang assemblyman Datuk Idris Buang’s speech at the State Legislative Assembly on Tuesday about the native customary rights (NCR) rally which took place on Monday was misconceived and based on erroneous assumptions.
According to Siah, Idris had expressed his disapproval of the rally and implied that certain parties had manipulated the issue for self-interest and political gains, and claimed that the state government was the ‘most rational, most reasonable’ government.
“Besides sounding sanctimonious and patronising, Idris Buang’s whole speech is misconceived and based on erroneous assumptions,” Siah said in a press statement yesterday.
Firstly, he pointed out that the laws permit the holding of rallies and the organisers had obtained the approval of the police to hold this rally.
“Idris Buang claimed that holding rallies does not augur well for our ‘solidarity and peaceful surrounding’ but on the contrary, the rally went on peacefully and fostered solidarity among the various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and more importantly, the various native communities.”
Siah said Idris was also mistaken in his assumption that this is a Dayak issue, adding that the latter should realise that NCR issues also affect the Malay and the Melanau communities.
“In fact, I am aware that three cases have been won on the same concept of pemakai menoa or territorial domain for the Kedayan, Jati Mirik and Malay communities up to the Court of Appeal with no further appeal to the Federal Court.
“Idris Buang may not be aware that even his own Malay constituents in Kampung Seniawan, Kampung Mang and Kampung Nakong are facing the exact same problem.”
Therefore, he said Idris’ unfounded accusation that the Dayaks are claiming ‘for something under the guise of NCR, whether it is Pemakai Menoa or Pulau Galau’ was a clear indication that he did not understand the finer points of this issue, or how the problems arose in the first place.
“Claims of NCR are made in accordance with the adat of the people and are always subject to proof. To simply say that people are simply claiming land that does not belong to them is an insult to the integrity of the people. Any party that makes a claim for NCR land must go to court with evidence of their claim, and it is up to the court to judge whether the claims are genuine or not.
“It is grossly arrogant and sadly ignorant to suggest that NCR claims are false and unsubstantiated. If this were the case, past cases would have been thrown out of courts, but in fact, many cases have made it to the Federal Court.
“This means that the plaintiffs have reasonable grounds for their claims and there are valid legal questions to be answered. The native communities would not simply bring their cases to the courts unless they were sure of their rights and desperate for justice. They would not waste their time and resources to attend the rally if they did not feel that they had to show the government their frustration and desperation.”
Siah said the courts have recognised the concept of Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau.
“The problem that arose in the federal Court decision was that the court held, contrary to what had been decided before, that these adat and customs have no force of law. That is the whole problem.”
He said the people had been patient with the government, and waited for many months for the committee to come up with some recommendations but there was no indication that the committee was close to any decision.
“All that is needed is for the law to be amended so that it is made clear that the adat of Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau has the force of law. The extent of claims cannot be defined and must be subject to evidence. It is as simple as that.
“The fact is that there does not seem to be any political will on the part of the government to amend the law and the talk that we hear about all the side issues that the committee needs to consider are just attempts to cover up their indecision and to obfuscate the matter. They are the ones who are making a circus show of the situation while the native communities agonise over their rights.”
Siah said contrary to what Idris was trying to assert, the government had taken away the people’s NCR lands and given them to plantations and timber companies.
“The government is not the warm and benevolent being that Idris Buang is trying to portray. The government is made up of many Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders who have vested interests and are afraid of rocking the boat.”
Siah said there was one thing Idris was right about – that the government has more than a fiduciary duty to protect the rights of the people.
“However, the government has dismally failed to do so. Therefore, the people have every right to take to the streets and Idris Buang should thank them for their patience all these years and their exemplary behaviour at the rally instead of preaching to them and feeding the public with gross untruths and misinformation.
“As a lawyer, he should at least have taken the trouble to read the judgments so that he would have some understanding of the problems that the native communities are facing before engaging his speechwriter to draft an insulting and sanctimonious sermon.”