Thursday, April 14, 2016

Exposed! Real intention of NCR land perimeter survey

by Joseph Tawie

OPINION: Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment Awang Tengah Ali Hassan has revealed that a total of 644,448 ha of native customary rights (NCR) land in 433 areas have been perimeter surveyed under Section 6 of the Land Code up to September last year.

Of the number, the Department of Lands and Surveys had gazetted 425,999 hectares involving 295 areas as communal reserves under Section 6.

Have the Dayaks been intentionally “robbed” off their NCR land when they have no more rights to their land after they were gazetted as Native Communal Reserves?

This was the question posed by a tuai rumah (longhouse chief) in Spak, Betong when he found out that NCR lands belonging to residents from 52 longhouses were now known as “Native Communal Reserves”.

“When we were presented with this beautifully framed map and the official looking certificate in a ceremony officiated by YB Tan Sri Datuk Patinggi Alfred Jabu anak Numpang in early 2014, we were led to believe that this is our longhouse land title,” said a representative of Tuai Rumah Timang Geramong from Rantau Lelayang longhouse in Spak in Betong.

“However, written at the top of the frame are the words ‘Pewartaaan Rizab Gunasama’ (Gazette of Communal Reserve) and this means the land is ‘Tanah Galau Bekunsi’ in Iban.

“Were we intentionally misled by the authorities?” he asked.   

Another longhouse headman Tuai Rumah Ambu Kadukom of Lempaong longhouse said that based on Section 6.3 of the Land Code, these lands have always been state lands.

“Are we therefore ‘orang tumpang’ (squatters) living on our own lands since January 18, 2011?” questioned Ambu.

According to Section 6.4 of the Land Code the BN government can take these lands from them anytime without their consent since they are only ‘pemegai lisin’ (licensees), and the compensation amount is at the discretion of the government.

“This means we have no absolute rights whatsoever over these lands, unless they are converted to Section 18.

“If the BN is sincere, then give us Section 18 straightaway, why Section 6 first?” demanded Tuai Rumah Merundie Lindang of Batu Pesok longhouse.

The order to convert their lands into native communal reserves was published through the Sarawak Government Gazette dated July 26, 2013,

The order stipulated that their NCR lands have been ordered to come under Section 6 of the Land Code and the order was deemed to have come into force on the January 18, 2011.

All 19 longhouses in the Spak tributary have been gazetted under Section 6 and so are 18 longhouses in the Padeh area.

Tuai Rumah Esley Bedindang, a retired police officer from Stambak Ulu Asal, Layar, raised a glaring point: “Since our temuda farmlands have been perimeter surveyed without our prior consent or knowledge and gazetted under Section 6, what about the larger communal NCR lands that have not been surveyed at all?

“We consider these lands as our pemakai menua (territorial domain) where we hunt, fish and gather jungle produce and our pulau galau (reserved forests) which we keep fallow as large pockets of untouched forest reserves.

“Are our Pemakai Menua and Pulau Galau now automatically becoming state lands, like what has happened in Machan and other Dayak areas all over Sarawak where there are on-going disputes over land rights?” he asked.

Another retired senior civil servant Unding Ringkai from Nanga Tebalau in Middle Layar, said that many of these longhouses in the Spak and Padeh were involved in the Getah (rubber) IRAD scheme, including many other longhouses in the Middle and Lower Layar.

The participants were offered free rubber seedlings, free fertilizers, free pesticides, free construction of access dirt roads to the farmlands and free training.

But under this scheme they had to have their temuda (farmed) lands perimeter surveyed, he said.

Uding said that many of the participants were not aware that their farmlands were perimeter surveyed by contractors appointed by the Agriculture Department and Risda.

In a report published in the Berita Iban Section of the Utusan Borneo, dated March 15, 2016, Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Douglas Uggah Embas confirmed that all temuda farmlands under the Getah IRAD scheme in Betong were perimeter surveyed and gazetted under Section 6 of the Land Code.

Are they too losing their NCR lands?

“This is an extremely serious matter as all the temuda lands of longhouses along the Layar that participated in the Getah IRAD scheme, including the 18 longhouses of Padeh and the 19 longhouses of Spak, have been gazetted under Section 6 of the Land Code,” said Vernon Aji Kedit, Sarawak PKR information chief.

“Many longhouse residents are still unaware that their NCR lands have been perimeter surveyed and that the unsurveyed NCR lands like pemakai menua and pulau galau have automatically become state lands”.

He said that in legal terms, the landowners of Layar who do not possess ‘pala tanah’ (titled lands) have all surrendered and lost their customary rights over their NCR lands, including those with JOT lands that were fully recognised during the Rajahs and the British colonial periods pre-1963.

He said many Betong longhouse residents are under the impression that their NCR lands are still safely theirs.

They were wrong, he said.

“The BN government keeps telling them that the opposition is lying and that the government will not take their NCR lands.

“But today we have produced irrefutable evidence gazetted by the government itself that the entire Spak, Ulu Layar and Padeh are under Section 6 with effect from January 18, 2011.

“These lands are now known as native communal reserves,” stressed Kedit, who is PKR candidate for Layar.

The “truth” about the perimeter survey on NCR land has not only angered the Dayak landowners in Betong, but also in other parts of Sarawak.

It is becoming the hottest election issue.

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