Thursday, April 23, 2015

Baru: Remember rights of forest dwellers

Posted on April 23, 2015, Thursday

BARU Bian (PKR-Ba’Kelalan) has reminded the august House that they must not forget the rights of the natives that live in and off the forests whose rights are directly affected by the Forest Bill 2015 in implementing “protection and management of forests in Sarawak and to regulate the taking of forest produce and for matters connected therewith” as stated in the explanatory statement of the Bill.

“Indeed, as the minister had said, the present Forest Ordinance 1958 is an old law and as such, I would expect the new Bill should also incorporate the latest development in the law, in particular the native customary rights (NCR) of the natives of Sarawak,” he said during his debate on the Bill during the State Legislative Assembly sitting, here, yesterday.

Baru, who is state PKR chairman, said he noticed there was not much difference in the present Forest Ordinance on the constitution of Forests Reserves, Protected Forests and Communal Forests, except that the Bill combined both the Forest Reserves and Protected Forests provisions, which he agreed, should be the case.

He reiterated his concern pertaining to a problem with the issue of publication of the Gazette notification in constituting Forest Reserves and Protected Forests under Section 8, the proclamation of the Forest Reserves and Protected Forests under Section 19 and the extinguishment of subsisting rights under Section 22 of the Bill.

Section 22 of the Bill provides that such constitution, proclamation and extinguishment be “published in at least one newspaper circulating in Sarawak or in such medium as circumstances may permit and displayed at any place or at the district office”.

“The plain and obvious fact is that the natives in the ulu or rural Sarawak do not read Government Gazette or read the newspaper. I assure you no Gazette or newspaper reaches the rural areas of Sarawak.

“Even most of the honourable members of this august house for that matter do not read Government Gazette and may miss reading some newspapers.”

Baru said it was absurd to expect rural natives to read the Gazette as they did not go down to the district office often and many are still illiterate.

“Because the sections require them to lodge their claims for compensation with 60 days for the constituting of Forest Reserves and Protected Forests under Section 8, failing which a native is “deemed to have abandoned or waived such right or privilege and shall not be entitled to any payment of compensation” and 30 days for extinguishment of subsisting rights under section 22 (3) for the native to inform the Regional Forests Officer “in writing of the nature and extent of the exercise or enjoyment by him of the subsisting rights or privileges which are intended to be extinguished.”

Baru requested the minister to consider amending Section 8(20, 18(1) and 22 (2) of the Bill to include further that such notice for the “constitution”, “proclamation: and “extinguishment” be exhibited at the door or ‘bilik’ of the village chief where the said land is located.

“On the proclamation of the Forest Reserves and Protected Forests under Section 18 of the Bill, it is important that the natives be aware of the creation of the said Forest Reserves and Protected Forests to ensure that no breach of Section 26 of the Bill be committed by any person.

“Therefore, the said proclamation must be physically served, not through the ‘deemed served’ process.”

Baru also proposed that whenever a Forest Reserve or Protected Forest is created, as far as possible, NCR should not be extinguished but instead such right be recognised, admitted and allowed to subsist.

“And then you give some of the rights to protect, manage the Forest Reserve and Protected Forest to the natives with clear instructions to them that this is done for their own good and sustenance and the good of the world at large.

“This would include the operation of section 25(2) of the Bill which allows the inclusion in a Forest Reserve or Protected Forest of any alienated land including native land alienated with titles.”

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