KUCHING: The Sarawak Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which was passed in the State Legislative Assembly yesterday, saw three significant amendments to protect the rights of native people.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, who is also Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development, urged people to give this law a chance.
“If there is any doubt, we are open for discussions and there is no reason why we should abuse this issue to instigate the people. It is important that we live harmoniously together. Problems are there but the direction is for discussion,” he told a press conference at the State Legislative Assembly complex yesterday.
He noted that there were voices outside and even a plan to organise a protest in Bintulu using the code word ‘tau ngena, tau ngempu’ (meaning used and owned in Iban or having proprietary right).
“I have told the state assembly council that this is wrong. Here, they assumed there are no proprietary rights and we hope this will stop because the law is clear,” he said.
“Before this, there was a lot of scepticism whether this (land issue) will ever reach the Council Negeri (state assembly) and today we have proved and kept our word,” he added.
On the amendment to Clause 3 on the limitation on the size of the Native Territorial Domain (NTD), Uggah emphasised that the new provision allows the native community to claim 1,000 hectares or 2,500 acres.
“Previously, the government agreed to limit the NTD not to exceed 500 hectares but 22 state assembly members have during the debate appealed for the size to be reviewed and Chief Minister (Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg) has listened and responded positively,” he said.
Thanking the Chief Minister for his support and guidance, Uggah observed there was almost no dissenting voice in the state assembly as everybody supported the Bill, including some Pakatan Harapan assemblypersons.
The issue of Pemakai Menoa (PM) and Pulau Galau (PG), which previously had no force of law, he continued, has been legally recognised including usufructuary right.
“It is not only the force of law and usufructuary right but native communal title to be given will be in perpetuity and free of any premium, rent or other charges,” he reiterated.
In addition, he said the amendment also sought to establish the principle of deferred indefeasibility which has previously caused problem to get the land back when the provisional lease (PL) was issued as many times, the land exists within the PL area.
“The problem becomes very apparent whereby the Native Customary Right (NCR) land recognised within the area cannot be extracted out because of the principle of indefeasibility of title in accordance with the Torrens System,” he explained.
“So now the principle of deferred indefeasibility is in place in the Sarawak Land Code, they must make sure NCR and NTD are excluded before any PL is issued,” he said of the change that he hoped will help reduce the conflict between landowner and the government.
The third amendment, he added, was the repeal of certain clauses which have not been used including Section 52F which indicated that NCR land can be claimed by some other lawful means.
Assuring that perimeter survey is ongoing since 2010, he said that a community with NTD to claim can submit their application to be processed by the government.
“We will try to speed up the survey process. As of todate, I understand that the Land and Survey (Department) has approved 1.3 million hectares out of which 816,000 hectares have been surveyed and 670,000 hectares have been gazetted,” he revealed.
Whether this law will affect pending court cases, Uggah said he will need to consult the Attorney-General (AG).
Tasik Biru assemblyman Dato Henry Harry Jinep, Layar assemblyman Gerald Rentap Jabu, Batu Kitang assemblyman Lo Khere Chiang, Piasau assemblyman Datuk Sebastian Ting, Serembu assemblyman Miro Simuh, Tamin assemblyman Christopher Gira and Bukit Semuja assemblyman John Ilus were present.