Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian has challenged billionaire Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud to a public debate on the native customary rights (NCR) land.
"I am extending an open invitation to him to debate against me on the NCR land issue," Baru said at a press conference in Kuching today.
"He has two weeks to reply, but if he does not agree to the open invitation, then I will send him an official letter, through my legal office, to invite him to face me," said the NCR land law expert.
"If Taib has no time, then he should delegate his senior ministers who have a deep understanding of NCR land.
Baru (right) said the debate should be on whether the State Goverment has been grabbing the NCR lands and whether the NCR land is an old issue.
He said he is fed-up with Taib and his ministers, especially Awang Tengah , for harping that the NCR land is an old issue just to counter the claims by the Opposition and civil societies groups that the chief minister and state government have been grabbing NCR land from the natives.
"To me, the NCR land issue is crucial, on-goings and current. It is certainly not an old issue as claimed by Awang Tengah and Taib," he said.
Confusion confounded over land size
Baru also wants the Lands and Surveys director Sudarsono Osman to explain what does he mean by saying that NCR land spread over about 1.5million hectares in Sarawak.
"This is the question that we want Sudarsono to answer," he said in response to a statement by Sudarsono that the State government will complete a perimeter survey on 380,000h of NCR land by 2015.
Does he mean that the NCR lands are confined to Tanah Temuda (lands that have been established prior to Jan 1, 1958) alone and that is how he comes to conclusion that there are about 1.5 million hectares of NCR lands?" Baru asked.
He also asked Sudarsono whether his understanding and knowledge on NCR lands is based on legal decisions of the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal or the High Court.
"He should study the Federal Court's decisions in respective of the Nor anak Nyawai & three others versus Borneo Pulp and Paper & two others as well as the Miri Superintendent of Lands and Surveys and another versus Madeli Salleh," he said.
Baru said based on these two decisions by the apex court, NCR lands include Pemakai Menoa (communal area land) and Pulau Galau (communal forest).
Govt facing a pile of land cases
"This means that the size of NCR land, as far as I know, is three times bigger than the 1.5 million hectares mentioned by Sudarsono," he said.
He said Sudarsono's statement is confusing and misleading where the definition of the NCR land is concerned.
He said the large chunks of NCR land come from Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau.
He said his firm alone is handling about 150 cases filed by the landowners against the government for encroaching into their property.
"This is not to mention the cases filed through other legal firms," he added.
"The total of pending and active cases may well surpass 200 cases," he said.
The most celebrated case is the Nor anak Nyawai and three others vs Borneo Pulp and Paper and two others, in which Baru appeared for the plaintiffs.
This case has become the reference case for decisions made by the court on NCR land cases.
Baru said he is concerned with the government's definition of the NCR land as it is only confined to the Tanah Temuda.
On the debate, he said Baru he will propose that it tbe mediated by neutral persons or academicians as panel members and be picked from the local universities and who have been a deep knowledge and understanding of the NCR land.
Baru added he will invite rural people, especially the NCR landowners to attend, and that they will become the judge.
He said the local television stations and the local media should be invited to provide a wide coverage for the consumption of the local audience and the international community.
Taken from Malaysiakini.