Definition of ‘pemakai menoa’ and ‘pulau galau’ by year-end — Uggah


Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas

KUCHING: The Pemakai Menoa (territorial domain) and Pulau Galau (communal forest reserve) Committee is expected to come up with a recommendation to the state government on these two categories of Native Customary Rights (NCR) land by the end of this year.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, who is the chair of the committee, said he will be working very hard together with committee members to come up with a decisive recommendation to ensure that the issue can be resolved once and for all.

“At the rate it is going, it may take us a little bit of time but I think the people expect us to have some solutions within this year…some recommendations at least to the government and that will be our target.

“I will be working very hard for it because I saw some statements and comments but I cannot blame them also. (However) they must also appreciate the delicateness of this issue because we have to look at all angles.

“Even among the Bumiputera themselves, they also have different views on this issue,” he said when met at his Gawai Open House on Tuesday which was attended by Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

Currently, the state’s land administration system is based on the principle of temuda, or land which had been cleared, occupied and cultivated by native persons. The Federal Court had affirmed this principle last year when it ruled in the Tuai Rumah Sandah case that the native custom of pemakai menoa and pulau galau has no force of law in Sarawak.

Uggah said the committee has had a few meetings over the issues, with the last one held last week. He stated that although several recommendations had been made, they still had one outstanding issue that needed to be resolved, which is the exact definition of pemakai menoa and pulau galau that is acceptable to all the native ethnicities.

“In the last meeting, it seemed that we had not been able to reach a consensus because the Orang Ulu have their own view, the Bidayuh have their own view and the Iban have their own view. For example, like the Ibans in my area (Betong), we have no issue on pemakai menoa and pulau galau and they are recognised by everybody there.”

He said the committee will be organising a consultation in every division in the state- expected to start by the end of this month- to get into the bottom of what will be the acceptable definition of pemakai menoa among the native ethnicities in the state.

“The consultation will start by the end of this month because we have a very tight schedule. Now, we are working out the format and processes because this is the most delicate issue.”

When asked if the matter would be brought for deliberation in the State Legislative Assembly in November if a consensus could be reached, Uggah said it depends on how the state government takes the committee’s recommendation.

“But we want to have a decisive recommendation. Decisive means we try to resolve this issue once and for all but we cannot promise to make everybody happy. I think that is very clear.”

Uggah said there is definitely going to be only a single definition that is acceptable to all the native ethnicities “because we cannot have too many definitions. I think the law will now allow such”.

“But (the question is) how to approach it, that is the matter we have to discuss. What is important is a definitive definition because now for example, in the court case, the lawyer has been using ‘half-day walk from the longhouse or kampung’. That is what they claim to be the definition of pemakai menoa but some of the other ethnic groups might not agree with that.

“As of modern day, ‘half-day walk’ can be misinterpreted in a lot of ways. We have a lot of technology to move faster (nowadays). So I hope the public will appreciate the difficult task we are in but I’m confident we’ll find a way to resolve this issue because the Chief Minister (Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg) has directed us to find an acceptable solution.”

Uggah said the state government also wanted this issue to be resolved as soon as possible so that they could continue with the development programme.

“We are undergoing massive Rural Transformation Programme. I think you have read in our DUN speech on how we want to move forward in line with all the policies together with the digital economy, commercialisation of agriculture, modernisation of agriculture and so on.

“And there are a lot of jobs to do so we have a lot of outstanding issues that are very critical which we must move on, so we hope we solve the problem as we come along.”