KUCHING: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Sarawak information chief Vernon Kedit said he was served with a Letter of Demand by a law firm acting on behalf of Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas.
Vernon, who issued a statement in his personal capacity, said the letter demanded him to retract an allegedly libellous statement he had made and write a written apology to be published in newspapers in Sarawak and promise not to make such statements against Uggah in future.
The letter also demanded Vernon to pay all legal costs incurred by Uggah and pay Uggah a sum not less than RM1 million in damages as compensation for allegedly defaming him (Uggah) in a WhatsApp group chat.
“The deadline to meet the demands expires today at 5pm. I have no intention whatsoever to meet the deadline as truth is on my side. I fight for and defend the rights of all Sarawakians but now I am victimised for doing so. Lawyer’s letters do not intimidate me nor cow me into submission. Conversely, they provoke me to fight on,” he told a press conference here today.
According to Vernon, the said allegation refers to the issue of the Bill passed in the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly recently that amended the Sarawak Land Code “which gravely affects full ownership of ancestral Native Customary Lands and Native Customary Rights”.
“Douglas Uggah takes offence that I have questioned his dubious interpretation of the term ‘usufructuary right’, the definition of Pulau Galau and Pemakai Menua into ‘Native Territorial Domain’ and its limitation to a mere 1,000 hectares, and that Section 6A of the Bill gives propriety interests to NCR. Therefore, he has resorted to this legal challenge,” he added.
Vernon said his comments were made strictly on behalf of the native communities, especially the Iban community, of which Uggah and he belong to, adding that the comments were made in the course of the academic, legal and political discussion surrounding the amendment to the Sarawak Land Code.
“As a politician, he should know that my comments were made in the interest of the natives, in particular the Iban, who hold the most NCR lands in the state. I am disappointed that he has chosen to resort to this action to silence me instead of encouraging transparent discussion.
“I hope all natives and native non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Sarawak who value and defend their Native Customary Lands and understand the issue, especially with the legal definition of ‘usufructuary right’ which does not give ownership in the land, will be 100 per cent behind me and my legal team as we bring this matter to court to settle it once and for all,” he said.
Vernon said if Uggah intends to drag him to court for defending the natives, he will oblige him for the sake of all that the natives hold dear.