KUCHING: Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing is adamant that the the upholding by the Court of Appeal of a Sibu High Court decision to recognise Pulau Galau and Pemakai Menoa in the case of Tuai Rumah Sandah Tabau is not a blanket recognition of these two native customary (NCR) rights on land claimed by natives in the state.
Yesterday, the Baleh assemblyman said the decision of the Court of Appeal was on a case by case basis.
He pointed out there were instances where claimants of Pulau Galau and Pemakai Menoa are recognised as NCRs over land without the claimants going to court.
“The court decision on the case is not a blanket recognition on all Pulau Galau and Pemakai Menua claims by natives throughout Sarawak,” said Masing when responding to a statement by PKR liaison chief Baru Bian urging the government to recognise NCRs – namely Temuda, Tembawai, Pemakai Menua and Pulau Galau – of the indigenous people over areas that had been acquired for plantations.
Masing however, could not tell if the government would file an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal to the Federal Court. On Wednesday, Baru told a press conference here that the recognition on the NCRs over land of the indigenous people was reaffirmed by the Court of Appeal in the Tuai Rumah Sandah Tabau’s case.
“Besides that, there were at least five decisions in the High Court that confirmed Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau. So no more excuse for them not to recognise them,” he said.
Despite the unanimous decision by the Court of Appeal, Baru was quite certain that the government would appeal to the Federal Court because the judgement would have serious ramifications on other claims on NCR land.
He added that a few cases had been postponed to wait for the decision on the Tuai Rumah Sandah’s case.
“This judgement will give confidence to the natives to get their issues addressed in the court because the country’s judiciary is still very open and can be trusted to provide justice.”
Baru opined that the government should adhere to the decision of the court by not simply issuing provisional leases and license for planted forest without consultation or consent of the natives in Sarawak.
“The problem is the legal advisors of our government chose not to accept the decision of the court and not accepting the fact that Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau are NCR. That is why probably they are advising the government differently.”
In view of that, Baru said he would furnish Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and all state ministers with a compilation of all the decisions of the courts in recognising Pemakai Menua and Pulau Galau.
In the case, Sandah and several NCR land claimants sued Kanowit Timber Company Sdn Bhd and the state government in the High Court for encroaching into their more than 5,500 hectares of NCR land that include Pemakai Menoa and Temuda. The company and state government contended that the claimants’ NCR should only be restricted to Temuda covering an area of 2,700 hectares.
Pemakai Menoa is an Iban term referring to a territorial domain of a longhouse community where customary rights to land resources were created by pioneering ancestors. Pulau Galau is an Iban term referring to a communal reserve purposely left untouched for future resources by longhouse community.
Temuda is an Iban term referring to cultivated land that has been left to fallow for a certain period of time while Tembawai, refers to old longhouse sites.