KUCHING, Oct 27 — A Dayak non-governmental organisation (NGO) wants the Sarawak government to recognise the concept of Native Customary Rights (NCR) over lands as a solution to settle disputes between the indigenous communities and plantation companies.
“We believe that the concept is the key to settling all the NCR land problems, some of which have turned violent,” Dayak National Congress (DNC) president Mengga Mikui said today.
He said the concept calls for the government to recognise not just the cultivated farmlands, but also the communal forest reserves (pulau galau) and territorial domain (pemakai menoa) as NCR lands.
“While the government recognises farmlands as NCR lands, but it does not recognise communal forest reserves and territorial domains as customary lands, contrary to the decisions of the Federal Court in deciding NCR land disputes,” Mengga said.
He said the ruling Brooke family, the British colonial government and the Malaysian government recognise the practise of indigenous communities over the communal forest reserves and territorial domains as their customary lands.
“However, this custom began to erode in the 1980s when state government issued licences in large numbers to timber companies to extract logs within the communal forest reserves and territorial domains,” he said, adding that the situation was further aggravated when the state government issued provisional leases over these lands to plantation companies.
Mengga stressed the death of an employee of a plantation company and the injury inflicted on a village headman after talks to settle dispute turned violent in Ulu Balingian, Mukah three nights ago, was a direct consequence of an encroachment into land claimed by the villagers as their NCR land.
He said there were many cases where headmen, who led their followers to defend their NCR lands, were either brutally attacked or threatened with bodily injuries.
“The shooting of village headman Bangsa anak Andom on Dec 24, 1997 in Bakong, Baram, the killing incident in Ulu Niah on Sept 1, 1999, the attack on Minggat anak Nyakin and his son in Sarikei on Feb 14, 2011 by workers of a logging company and the shooting of NCR land activist Bill Kayong on June 21 this year are some of the examples of NCR land cases that have turned violent,” Mengga said.