Tuesday, April 30, 2013

GE13: PKR to safeguard Native Customary Rights in Sarawak

KUCHING (April 29): Sarawak PKR is using a Global Witness video as a campaign tool to "open up" the minds of native voters on issues pertaining to Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands in Sarawak. 
"If this is watched by any reasonable person, they should be able to make decisions of their own…  we hope that this will open up the minds of the fence sitters and make their decision on the May 5 in our favour," said state PKR chief Baru Bian. 
Baru said the they had distributed thousands of copies of the video, in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban subtitles, to the constituents in all the 15 seats the party is contesting. 
Baru is confident that the people would make a wise decision against Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and "his cronies" who had been allegedly depriving the people of their land rights for the past 32 years. 
The video that went viral had covertly captured the conversations of the cousins of the Abdul Taib, who tried to sell lands alienated to them to a Global Witness investigator who posed as an investor. They had said in the video that "they (natives) are actually squatters on state land".  Several parties were also caught on the video detailing the transaction and commission mechanism from selling such state land.   
Taib had refuted the allegations saying that his cousins were not his trusted agents and intermediaries. Some state ministers had denied the allegation saying that the video did not show the true picture. 
Nevertheless, Baru was amused that the state BN ministers are now politicising the NCR issue – which BN claims to be a stale issue, and twisting the facts on PKR's stand on NCR. 
Baru, a famous land rights lawyer, said the state ministers should make their stand on the allegation in the video first before they make any further statements on the NCR issue. 
"What they (state ministers) are saying are all nonsense. I can forgive them because they are not lawyers, they are politicians.
They are saying that in the ulu (rural areas) they (Dayaks) will lose their NCR lands (if they do not vote for BN). How can? All these years we have been fighting for NCR,"  said Baru, who is contesting in Limbang parliamentary seat. 
Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan and Land Development Minister Tan Sri James Masing had reportedly said that Pakatan would abolish the right to NCR ownership. 
Stressing PKR's stand to safeguard NCR in Sarawak, the state PKR chief used his own track record, to refute the state ministers' statement. 
"My law firm has over 200 files on cases of land grabs by logging, plantation and construction companies, almost all of them having connections with BN politicians and their families," said Bian.
He claimed that Masing's family members were also involved in a few land cases, which were detailed in the whistleblower website Sarawak Report. 
He added that the courts had reinstated NCR ownership of the people in about 20 cases but the state government refused to abide the courts' decision, especially with regard to the definition of NCR land. 
"One of Pakatan's promises it to set up a Land Commission to investigate NCR land claims and to right the wrongs done to the people," he said, adding that all lands taken illegally would be dealt with when Pakatan is in power.

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