Monday, November 10, 2014

See Chee How's debate speech on the Land Code (Amendment) Bill 2014

Speech text of See Chee How, State Assemblyman for Batu Lintang, in debating on the Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2014, on 10 November 2014
Thank you, Datuk Amar Speaker, for giving me this opportunity to debate on the Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2014.
Datuk Amar Speaker, I am obliged to urge this Honourable House to put a safeguard in the proposed amendment section 5 and 5A, against the “Commodifying of NCR lands” by the passing of this amendment bill. Indeed, to many natives and even the non-natives, lands are more than dollars and cents. Besides allowing transactions over NCR land, there are certainly more ways to enable the NCR landowners to “profit” from their lands. 
I must put on record the decisions of our apex court of which this amendment must comply, due to the nature of native customary rights in lands.
Datuk Amar Speaker, the Federal Court  has reminded us in detail how the earlier ancestors had never thought of NCR lands as mere commodities but instead, how lands carry significant history, customs, spiritual well-being, self-sufficiency and security.
I am referring to the judicious decision of Yang Amat Arif the Chief Judge Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Panglima Richard Malanjum, delivered in July 2013 in the case of Bisi Ak Jinggot.  
After examining the various earlier judicious decisions, at paragraph 22 of His learned Lordship’s decision, the most honourable Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak, expressed that, and I quote:                         
“NCL (Native Customary Land) was and is intended for the upkeep and survival of the inhabitants of each longhouse community. There is no element of commercial enterprise involved.” Close quote.
His learned Lordship then quoted an article ‘Transformation of the Iban land use system in post independence Sarawak’ and adopted the statement that: ‘A close relationship between land, farming practices, and resource use among the Iban reveal important features of the community's agrarian roots. The traditional Iban farming system comprised a rich mixture of religious rites and cultural practices, referring to Sather 1980, 1990 and Freeman 1955, and formed the basis upon which the pioneering ancestors of the present-day Iban (and all natives for that matter) first created customary rights to land in Sarawak’.
Then, at paragraph 27 of His Lordship’s decision, the Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak had also approved of the approach of seeing the natives as part of the land and His Lordship stated that, and I quote, “Being part of the land a native is not in a position to sell any interest in the land for he is but a mere trustee of the land for his next generation.” 
Describing the decision of Justice Datuk David Wong in the case of Agi Ak Bungkong as poignant, His Lordship approved and reiterated that part of the decision which states: 
‘Let me also add that natives are the original inhabitants of the country and to treat claims for NCR by looking at it only from the point of ownership of the lands by the natives is not entirely correct. These claims should be looked at with the concept that the natives are part of the land as are the trees, mountains, hills, animals, fishes and rivers. My basis for saying this is simple. Prior to the arrival of white settlement there was no system of land ownership as we have now. There was no food processing factory then and they survived by foraging the land. The fruits on the wild trees, the fishes in the river, the wild boars and other animals on the land are their food for survival. It is not insignificant in this country that they are known as ‘bumiputras’. It is my view that this concept must be kept at the forefront of our minds when dealing with native claims to lands.’
Datuk Amar Speaker, we must therefore bear these judicious decisions, founded on customary practice and beliefs, in mind in this present amendment, that transfer for valuable considerations must be for a fixed term and be reverted to the original landowners upon the expiry of the terms of the transaction which should not be more than 60 years. This Honourable House must bear in mind not to turn our natives as custodians as their ancestral land into commodity traders, that they are custodians of not just the present generations’ rights but countless generations yet to come. To put it into effect will be consistent with the proposed amendment in section 18A of the Land Code. 
With that, I agree and support the suggestions of the Honourable Member of Ba' Kelalan that this amendment bill needs to be reviewed to incorporate provisions necessary under section 5 of the Land Code, to safeguard the rights and interests of the NCR claimants and landowners.

See Chee How
N11 Batu Lintang

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