Federal Court ruling on NCR land to be revisited


Siah (middle) and the appellants at court today. Also seen is land activist Nicholas Bawin (third right).

KUCHING: The Federal Court’s decision on Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau (PMPG) having no force of law in Sarawak will now be revisited.

This was after the Federal Court in Kuching today chaired by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri David Wong Dak Wah allowed an application for leave to appeal by Tuai Rumah (longhouse chief) Ramba Bungkong on several points of law.

Previously, in a 4-1 decision by a full bench dismissing the review application by Tuai Rumah Sandau Tabau and Siew Libau in Putrajaya on Sept 11, the Federal Court decided that PMPG has no force of law and therefore was not part of the law of Sarawak.

The counsel for the appellants, Simon Siah, said the chief judge opined that the decision in TR Sandah ought to be revisited and ventilated again in the Federal Court in the present case.

Apart from Wong, the other two judges were federal court judges Datuk Rohana Yusuf and Datuk Nalini Pathmanathan.

According to Siah, several other cases were also granted leave to the same effect.

He also mentioned that the Federal Court has also granted leave on whether an extinguishment exercise of native customary rights (NCR) over land as provided under Section 15 of the Sarawak Land Code was required prior to the alienation of the lease of state land.

“It is provided under Section 15 that extinguishment has to be done first before alienation of land for whatever purposes. This has not been done for most of the NCR claims that is in court.

“Furthermore, if NCR has been proven, in the case of TR Nyutan, the Court has suggested that the natives will only be compensated with money and their lands will be lost forever. This is not what the natives of Sarawak wanted when they bring such matters to Court. For the natives of Sarawak, their land is their life,” he said.

As such, Siah said the Court has granted leave to also revisit the decision in the Federal Court of TH Pelita Sadong Sdn Bhd & Others v TR Nyutan ak Jami & Ors and another appeal.

On Oct 13 2017, the Federal Court had ruled, in a case brought by Tuai Rumah Nyutan Jami, Ganga Guma and Langa Kama, that landowners cannot reclaim their NCR land, which was under provisional lease, after it has been converted into lease-of-state land.

The decision had resulted in NCR landowners in Kampung Lebor, Jalan Gedong, Serian getting entitled to compensations and damages for infringement or extinguishment of NCR rights as provided for under the Sarawak Land Code.

On Ramba’s case, which was heard in 2015, it involved 3,500 ha of land in Sg Liam, Bakong and Miri.