Published: Sunday April 20, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM Updated: Sunday April 20, 2014 MYT 2:38:12 PM
MIRI: Two groups comprising minority folk from this division have triumphed in the Court of Appeal, which has affirmed that they have Native Customary Rights (NCR) over their land based on inherited customs or adat.
The Kedayan and Jati Mirik groups were represented by prominent land rights lawyer Baru Bian, who described the ruling handed down on Thursday as a “historic” one.
The first case involved three farmers of Kampung Selanyau in the Sibuti district, namely Abu Bakar Pungis, Salim Ebrahim and Sapur Ismail, who sued Tung Cheong Sawmill, the division’s Land and Survey superintendent and Sarawak government for trespassing on their NCR land. This came after the Land and Survey Department had issued a provisional lease to the sawmill to operate in their village, without their consent and without mention of compensation.
The three also sued on behalf of 150 other folk from the Kedayan community, who said they inherited their NCR status by virtue of adat as they had been living there since 1909.
The second case involved three natives of Kampung Bakam Miri, namely Karim Endut, Madanis Wahat and Asin Bujang who along with 90 others had sued Tung Cheong Sawmill, the division’s Land and Survey and Sarawak government.
The plaintiffs are from the Jati Marik community.
Both groups lost their cases at the High Court here last year, but they appealed afterwards.
Last Thursday, Court of Appeal judges Datuk Abdul Wahab Patail, Mohtarudin Baki and Mah Weng Kwai ruled in favour of the two native groups and overturned the High Court decision.
“This is the first time that the court affirms the adat of the Kedayan and Jati Mirik over NCR to their land. I hope the authorities and the sawmill do not appeal against this decision as that would imply that they do not respect the court’s ruling,” Baru told a press conference here yesterday.
The majority of the Kedayan and Jati Mirik communities, who are among the smallest ethnic groups in Sarawak, reside in the state’s northern region.