25 OCTOBER 2016
The news about the latest land dispute death came as a shock to me. This incident 4 months after the murder of Bill Kayong serves to remind us that many native landowners are still facing problems with plantation and timber companies. This time the victim appears to be from the company’s side but the issue is that lives are being lost unnecessarily because of government policies which impact the native community’s life and livelihood.
We have been asking for many years for the Sarawak government to abide by the ruling of the courts and recognise that pemakai menoa and pulau galau are part and parcel of NCR land. By ignoring legitimate NCR claims over pemakai menoa and pulau galau, and allowing the land authorities to continue issuing leases and provisional leases over NCR land, the government had set the ground for potential disputes between native landowners and the companies.
Not only have the authorities continued to ignore the court rulings but they are also failing to respond swiftly when disputes arise over NCR claims. The failure to investigate swiftly and impartially leaves the landowners feeling isolated and helpless. Leaving disputes to be settled between the landowners and the companies, many of whom hire gangsters to intimidate the landowners, is not viable. Neither are court actions, which can take years to be heard and disposed of. The people cannot put their lives on hold for that long, and they should not be left to live under clouds of uncertainty over their land rights.
Again, I reiterate my call for a Land Rights Commission to be set up, or a Land Tribunal, as suggested by the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum in January this year. Having been given a strong mandate by the people, I hope the Chief Minister and his cabinet will see fit to give the native landowners this avenue for registering their claims and swift resolution of their disputes. Perhaps the CM will oblige at the November DUN sitting.
In the meantime, I call for a calm, speedy and fair investigation by the police and I trust that all parties will give their full co-operation to the investigation team.
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan