Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud said he will only accept Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian's challenge to a public debate if there is a strong evidence that the state government has grabbed native customary rights (NCR) lands from the owners.
“He will have to submit the proof first before I can accept the challenge on the debate with the NCR land as the topic.
“At this moment, his allegations are without proof unless he can come up with one. Or is he only trying to argue for the sake of argument?” Taib told reporters after the opening of the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party's (SPDP) eighth annual general assembly in Bintulu yesterday.
Replying to Taib's conditional acceptance of the debate, Bian said: “We thank the Chief Minister for accepting our challenge to debate.
“We hope the truth will finally be made known to the public through such a debate,” said Bian today.
“As for his request for proof and evidence, we would like to inform him that our evidence is ready, but it evidence cannot be revealed now or else there would not be a need for a debate.
“However, we are happy to draw his attention to the overwhelming mountain of evidence already submitted in court for over 200 NCR cases still pending to date which the state attorney-general is fully aware of.
“We will also be bringing additional supplementary evidence on top of the evidence already submitted in court to the debate to further support our case about natives' loss of NCR lands and that this is not an old issue,” said Bian.
“We hope he is not pretending to be ignorant of the evidence as an excuse to avoid or evade the debate,” he said.
'Up to Taib to determine time and venue'
“Since he has accepted our challenge, we propose that the debate be held either on March 5 or 6 or 10,” he said, adding that it is up to Taib to determine the time and venue of the debate.
“We suggest that Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) Social Science academics who are informed on NCR issues be appointed to chair the debate.
“We further suggest it would be appropriate to have the public debate in a large venue like the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching or the Stadium Perpaduan at Petrajaya so that the public can have free access to listen to the views to be expressed by the chief minister and myself,” said Bian (right).
On Taib's statement that the state government accepts the decisions of the court on the NCR land cases, even if it did not favour the government, Bian urged the chief minister to withdraw all government appeals against NCR cases won by the natives immediately.
“The court has decided in favour of NCR landowners but the government still insists on appealing against these cases.
“Will the chief minister direct the state attorney-general to withdraw these appeals immediately and keep his word or was his statement at the SPDP annual general meeting a mere rhetoric and lip service to deceive the people yet again?” asked Bian.
Bian had last Saturday extended an open invitation to Taib to a public debate on NCR lands.
He gave Taib two weeks to reply, failing which he will write officially, through his legal firm, to extend the invitation.
Bian had stated that if Taib had no time, then he should delegate his senior ministers having a deep understanding of the NCR land.
The debate should be on whether the state government has been grabbing the NCR lands and whether the NCR land is an old issue.
He said he was fed-up with Taib and his ministers, especially Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, for harping that the NCR land was 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 lands from the natives.
“To me, the NCR land issue is crucial, on-going and current. It is certainly not an old issue as claimed by Awang Tengah and Taib,” Bian said.
Taken from Malaysiakini