By Joseph Tawie
KUCHING – Chief Minister Taib Mahmud has been challenged to an open debate to clear the confusion over the native customary rights (NCR) land and allegations that the state government is “robbing” natives of their lands.
Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian, in issuing the challenge, said: “This NCR land issue is crucial to them (natives), and they want to know the true stand of the state government.
“We are giving the chief minister two weeks to reply to our challenge; if there is no reply, we will write officially to him through my legal firm.
“If he cannot come, then he can send one of his ministers to debate with me.” Bian, who is also an NCR land lawyer, was responding to statements made by Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, Second Planning and Resource Management Minister who said that NCR land was “an old issue.”
Awang had also said that the state government did not “rob” NCR land from the natives.
“These two issues have been harped upon by Sarawak ministers on behalf of the chief minister. Therefore I would like to throw a challenge for an open debate with the chief minister on these two statements.
“I would prefer the chief minister or Awang Tengah or James Masing (State Land Development Minister) to debate with me. I do not want other ministers like (Deputy Chief Minister) George Chan and (Deputy Chief Minister) Alfred Jabu anak Numpang because they do not know much about NCR land,” he said.
Bian also suggested that academicians from a local university, especially those who have experience in lecturing and writing about NCR land should be invited to sit as panel members.
He said the people from villages and longhouses should be invited to witness the debate and that it should be recorded and televised.
Meanwhile, a recent statement by the director of Land and Survey Department, Sudarsono Osman, that there are about 1.5 million hectares of NCR land in Sarawak has caught Bian’s attention.
Bian asked Sudarsono how he came to determine the size of NCR land. “Is this definition in accordance with the government’s understanding which is confined to temuda land (farm land) created before Jan 1, 1958?
“Or is this definition based on the legal decision that came out from the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court?
“In the landmark case of Nor Anak Nyawai confirmed by Madeli bin Salleh’s case in the Federal Court, the NCR land includes temuda land, ‘pemakai menua’ (communal land) and ‘pulau galau’ (reserved forest land).
“What they (government) are recognising and surveying is temuda land created before Jan 1, 1958, but what about the bigger portion of NCR land called ‘pemakai menua’ and the ‘pulau galau’ that have been preserved with the adat (customs) of the natives?
“That is the main contention,” said Bian, who estimated the size of NCR land to be at least three times bigger than the 1.5 million hectares declared by the government, if they go along with the court decision that NCR land includes temuda, pemakai menua and pulau galau.
He accused the government of deliberately confusing the people. – FMT