Sarawak native groups protest against controversial Land Bill


MIRI: Indigenous people from more than 10 social rights bodies held a protest in Bintulu against the passing of the Sarawak Land Code Amendment, which they said would erode their rights over the control of their ancestral land.

The amendment was passed in the Sarawak state assembly on Thursday.

More than 500 members of the Dayak National Congress, Persatuan Dayak Anak Sarawak, Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (SCRIPS) and a grouping comprising orang asal Bintulu, Niah, Tatau and others took part in the event in the northern Sarawak town, which came after the protest in Miri on July 7.

SCRIPS secretary-general Michael Jok said they had earlier registered their dissatisfaction over the matter with the politicians, insisting that the Bill must not be approved as it would erode the rights of the natives with regard to their control over the use of pemakai menoa (territorial domain) and pulau galau (communal forest reserve).

“And yet the state assembly passed the Bill. Even though Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas did some slight amendments to the Bill, we natives still can’t accept it,” he said.

Jok said under the amended law, every native settlement will be required to apply to the state Land and Survey Department director to get government recognition for pemakai menoa and pulau galau.

“Our control over these territories had been recognised even by the colonial British rulers.

“Now, we have been placed under the control of the state Land and Survey Department director, and we have to apply to the director for the right to use our very own territorial communal land.

“We are effectively being categorised as squatters in the communal land we inherited from our ancestors,” he said yesterday.

Jok added that after Bintulu, the groups will take their protest to other places, with Sibu being next.

The native social groups, he said, were furious that the Bill was rushed through.

“We were not properly consulted by the state leaders over the details of the Bill,” he said.