All out to defend their land rights

(The Star) #1

MIRI: The Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (Scrips) plans to stage street protests at various locations if the state assembly approves a proposed amendment to the Sarawak Land Code.

Scrips secretary-general Michael Jok said the Sarawak Land Code (Amendment) Bill must not be approved.

“The Bill will erode the rights of the natives with regards to their control over the use of our communal territories called Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau,” he told StarMetro after a meeting with native rights lawyers.

“We, the natives, have not been properly consulted by state leaders with regards to details of this Bill.

“The Bill must not be rushed through,” he reiterated.

Jok said a street protest was held in Miri last week over this matter.

“If the state assembly goes ahead and passes the Bill as it is, we natives will stage even more street protests in all urban and rural areas in the state,” he added.

On July 7, about 200 natives from more than 20 native social-rights groups staged a protest against the proposed amendment.

Armed with banners and posters, they put up a big “no” to the proposed move by Sarawak government to table the Bill in the state assembly session that is on-going now.

They walked the streets in city centre and shouted slogans to protect their land rights.

The groups included Scrips, Baram Peoples Action Committee (BPAC), Save Sarawak Rivers, Tanah Hak Bangsa Sarawak and others who represented the Iban, Melanau, Orang Ulu, Bidayuh and Malay communities.

BPAC chairman Philip Jau said the groups rejected the proposed amendment as it would dilute the rights of the natives towards control of their native land.

“When the state government announced the proposed amendment (last year) we natives were hopeful that this coming state assembly sitting will give legal recognition to Native Customary Rights on communal land that Sarawak natives called pemakai menoa and pulau galau.

“We have studied a draft of the amendment Bill.

“We are unhappy with the Bill as it will erode our rights on the communal land even further.

“The Bill, if approved, will require natives to apply to the Land and Survey Department to get recognition for our pemakai menoa and pulau galau.

“That is taking away our traditional rights,” said Jau.

He added that the natives were frustrated with all the delays by the state government in settling this issue, which had dragged on for decades.

Jau urged all native state assemblymen to reject the Bill.

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Pakatan assemblymen urged to say no to Land Code amendment