KUCHING: Calls for a review of laws related to native customary rights (NCR) land continue, with Bung Bratak Heritage Association (BBHA) president Dato Peter Minos suggesting an update of the Land Code.
He said the Land Code must allow NCR landowners to deal with fellow natives, regardless of where they are from.
“Also, if approved by the government, NCR landowners can deal with government agencies or even with government-approved private sector entities, under certain terms and conditions. This is because natives may not at present have the large capital outlays and expertise for modern large-scale land or commercial development.
“Wherever NCR land is in or near urban areas – if the natives want their NCR land to be turned into mixed zone land – the Land Code should consider with approval from government.
“Why must NCR land next to urban mixed zone land be very much less in value? Land in or near towns are all the same, NCR or mixed zone, and their value must not be so divergent. Time has changed and native NCR land owners must also change,” he said yesterday.
Minos, who is also PBB deputy publicity chief, was commenting on the Federal Court’s recent ruling that native customary rights (NCR) land cannot be transferred by sale and purchase agreements, nor can NCR so acquired over the ‘temuda’ by a native be sold to another person who does not belong to the same community.
The ruling has raised concerns not only among those who have sold or purchased NCR lands but also those who have entered into joint venture land developments.
Minos said when the British colonials first enacted the Sarawak Land Code, they intended to protect NCR land from the financially and commercially advanced, while in the 1950s and 1960s, protection of NCR land was needed
as the natives were very much behind.
But now, he pointed out, such protection was not enough because NCR land must be developed and protected at the same time.
“Protecting alone will see NCR land owners either moving up in life very slowly or not at all and this is not desirable. Now, the natives want to improve their income and economic status. They also look for wealth and high incomes like other Malaysian ethnic groups. Many natives are now educated and have realised about many things around them.
“So, all means and ways must be found to turn NCR land into profits and benefits. If natives can do it themselves why not do so, like some oil palm smallholders.”
He also explained if NCR land in or near urban areas could be turned into mixed zone land this would bring many opportunities to the natives concerned.
“This opens doors to many better things. The Code, and the government, ought to give that opening to the natives. I believe many natives owning NCR land in or next to towns see merits in the above.
“They appreciate the development aspects more than the protection aspect of NCR land. As said, native mindsets on NCR land must be updated with the changing time,” he said.
“To be a source of income, wealth and profit or even enjoyment, land must be developed for housing, property development, industrial or agricultural purposes.
“If land is left idle and not utilised or used haphazardly or forever kept in reserve, such land brings no benefit or profit to the owner. As such, NCR land must be used and developed for any gainful purposes. It cannot and must not remain idle or poorly utilised,” he said.