Monday, September 14, 2015

Is Masing just waking up from his slumber on NCR issue?

 by Joseph Tawie
SARAWAK FOCUS: James Masing’s recent call to the state government on issues relating to native customary rights (NCR) to land is a case of  being ‘too little too late’.
There is no point in the Land Development Minister asking the state government to make the Majlis Adat Istiadat (MAI) or Council of Native Customs and Traditions a definite authority to decide on pulau galau (forest reserve) and pemakai menua (territorial domain) when the issue is already before the courts. 
He should have said this before the NCR case on pulau galau and pemakai menua was heard by the Federal Court.
Now that the judgment in the case has been postponed, he tries to play hero after he and other Dayak ministers and leaders were heavily condemned by the landowners for being absent during the court case. 
Masing, who is the president of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) said that the council should be filled by people well-versed in native laws, native traditions and native customary rights over land in order to make it a credible body. 
He said that if there was a definite authority then the court of law would have a reference point prior to making judgments on NCR issues. 
He said that ‘pulau galau’ was self-defined, but ‘pemakai menua’ might need to be clearer defined.
“This is where MAI comes in,” Masing was quoted by The Borneo Post as saying.
Masing was not the first person to make the suggestion. The first proposal was made by the late Gerunsin Lembat who was then the MAI president. 
He suggested making the council the sole authority in land rights and matters involving the natives such as the ‘pemakai menua’ and ‘pulau galau’. 
This provision was supposed to be included in “The Adat Iban Order, 1993” before it was passed by the State Legislative Assembly. 
However, it was strongly opposed by the state government led by Abdul Taib Mahmud. 
The Adat Iban Order was gazetted in May 1993 under the Native Customary Laws Ordinance.
The subject was brought up again last year by Baru Bian, Ba’Kelalan state assemblyman, when he introduced a motion in the State Legislative Assembly for a clearer definition for the pemakai menua and pulau galau. 
His proposal also included the establishment of a Land Commission and Land Tribunal that would look into land disputes among the natives, and between the natives, companies and the state government. 
The motion was strongly rejected. Among those who rejected it was Masing. 
Asked to comment on Masing’s statement, Batu Lintang State Assemblyman See Chee How described Masing’s suggestion as “years and years too late”. 
“He should have supported Baru’s motion and been daring enough to come forward during the hearing of the Federal Court on ‘pemakai menua’ and ‘pulau galau’ early this week.
“That was the time the landowners needed him and other Dayak ministers and leaders, but they chose to be absent,” he said. 
Masing’s call and suggestions were useless after the federal court had heard the case, said See, adding that Masing was “years and years too late”. 
“He has just woken up from his deep slumber,” he said. 
See challenged Masing to tell the chief minister to withdraw the appeal before the Federal Court made any decision.
“It is still not too late, if Masing really wants to help,” said See.
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