KUCHING, June 22 — A group of indigenous Sarawakians today handed their demand to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah’s office, asking the state government to revoke provisional leases (PL) issued to plantation and logging companies involving their native customary rights (NCR) lands.
Sarawak Society for the Protection of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (SCRIPTS) chairman Michael Jok said all of the leases were issued to companies linked to current Governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud when he was chief minister for 33 years.
“For example, virtually the whole of Baram interior has been issued with PLs when Taib was the chief minister,” Jok told reporters after handing the Native Customary Rights Land Declaration to Uggah’s office.
“Based on the submissions from 54 communities in Baram interior which we have received thus far, about 2.8 million hectares of their NCR lands have been leased out by the state government to logging and oil palm companies,” Jok said.
He said in the Kapit division, about 870,000 hectares from 80 communities have also been leased out to companies.
“The NCR landowners want their properties back since much of these leased out areas have not cleared or developed for oil palm,” he said, explaining why they want the state government to revoke the PLs.
Jok said about 400 cases involving disputes over land claims between the indigenous communities and logging and oil palm companies have been filed in courts.
Henry Joseph, the legal advisor to SCRIPTS, said the declaration contains suggestions and views from the community leaders attending 15 forums and meetings over the last three years.
“The declaration is to tell the world that those lands belong to us. We are not challenging anybody, but telling the government over the ownerships of the lands,” he said.
“We are not asking for government’s protection over our property, but if there are outsiders who want to take our lands, then it is our responsibility to fight back,” he said.