Tuesday, March 2

‘Land Code amendment Bill fails to recognise, affirm fundamental characteristic of PMPG concept’


Baru Bian

KUCHING: Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian said the the Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018 which purportedly seeks to recognise Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau (PMPG) concept of acquiring native customary rights (NCR) over land in Sarawak, failed to recognise and affirm fundamental characteristic of the PMPG concept.

Baru explained that the PMPG concept as affirmed by landmark cases from other jurisdiction which held that the aboriginal people’s rights included an interest on the land and not merely an usufructuary rights.

Section 6A (1) of the bill specifically provides for the recognition of “usufructuary rights” only which is defined as “rights or privileges exercised or enjoyed by a native community over a native territorial domain to forage for food including fishing and hunting.”

Baru said another bone of contention is on Section 6A (2) of the bill that provides that the extent of an area allowed to be given to the native community under this concept is limited to 500 hectares only.

“It’s our stand that our NCR land or PMPG concept cannot be restricted or limited to an area defined by the authority. We have won cases where their PMPG extent beyond 10,000 hectares. Limiting the size of PMPG in this manner is unjust, unfair and immorally wrong,” said Baru in a press conference to announce Pakatan Harapan’s stand to reject the bill when members of the August House debate over it starting tomorrow (Wednesday).

Baru argued that the extent of the native territorial domain should be in accordance with the area that natives had continuously occupied since the time of their forefathers to this day.

Baru said Pakatan Harapan also opposes Section 6A(2), (3) and (4) of the bill that provides that application for recognition of the native territorial domain is to be made through the Superintendant of the Land and Surveys and to be approved by the director of Land and Surveys and; any rejection by the director of such application can be appealed against to the relevant Minister.

“Our stand is that the determination of custom or Adat of the native people of Sarawak cannot be made subjected to non-native or a person who does not have the knowledge of the natives’ Adat or custom.

“In this regard our proposal for the setting up of an Indigenous Land Commission which consists of those expert in the native custom and Adat to deal with this issue should be the proper thing to do,” he said.

Baru noted the positive aspect of the proposed amendment is on perpetuity title to be issued over the native territorial domain but this by itself could not justify the absurdity of the main aspects of the other amendments.

Baru said the numbers game of the State Legislative Assembly will see the bill passed as law unless lawmakers from ruling government oppose the bill.

He noted the number of state Pakatan Harapan lawmakers in the august house would not be able to get the bill rejected.

During the press conference, Baru also pointed out that he and Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen will not be able to join the debate on the bill as they had to attend the federal cabinet meeting in Putrajaya tomorrow (Wednesday).

Baru and Chong are MPs. They are also Works Minister and Deputy Minister for Trade and Consumer Affairs, respectively.

Baru said the other state Pakatan Harapan state lawmakers will stand on behalf of him and Chong to debate over the bill so that their arguments would be recorded in the Hansard.