The politics of native titles in Sarawak — James Chin

Source: New Mandala

AN 19TH CENTURY PRINT OF A DAYAK VILLAGE. IMAGE: BRITISH LIBRARY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

AN 19TH CENTURY PRINT OF A DAYAK VILLAGE. IMAGE: BRITISH LIBRARY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

Political malaise and self-serving leaders have left the indigenous Dayak people on shaky ground when it comes to land claims, writes James Chin.

On 7 January, Dayak “intellectuals” gathered in Pending, on the outskirts of Kuching, the capital of Sarawak state in Malaysia, to discuss the issue of Native Customary Rights (NCR) land, more commonly called native titles.

The meeting was hastily organised because Malaysia’s Federal Court overturned a lower court’s decision and ruled that ‘pulau galau’ (communal forest reserve) and ‘pemakai menoa’ (territorial domain) do not have the force of law. The ruling, in practice, meant most of the native title claims in Sarawak will not win their court challenge against the state for recognition of their NCR title.

What is NCR in Sarawak?
NCR, culturally, is widely understood in Sarawak as land belonging to the indigenous peoples of where there is no title issued. Under the Adat (customary law), NCR land has three components; ‘temuda’, ‘pulau galau’ (PG) and ‘pemakai menoa’ (PM). ‘Termuda’ refers to cultivated or farmed areas. PM and PG lie beyond the ‘Termuda’.

PG is usually understood to be a reserved area kept for communal use while PM is an area used for hunting and foraging by the Dayak community, and hence is usually much larger than the PG and Termuda. Read more

In pivotal decision, Dayaks lose right to claim forests as communal area

Source: The Malay Mail Online

The Dayak landowners, who come from all over Sarawak, with a banner outside Kuching High Court complex, giving their support to the headman Sandah anak Tabau and seven other landowners in Kuching December 20, 2016. — Pictures by Sulok Tawie for MMO.

The Dayak landowners, who come from all over Sarawak, with a banner outside Kuching High Court complex, giving their support to the headman Sandah anak Tabau and seven other landowners in Kuching December 20, 2016. — Pictures by Sulok Tawie for MMO.

KUCHING, Dec 20 — The Dayak people cannot apply their native customary rights (NCR) on land to claim virgin forests as their territorial domains and communal forest reserves, the Federal Court decided today in a crucial judgment that affect tens of other related disputes.

In a 3-1 majority decision, the apex court allowed an appeal by the Forest Department and the state government in a case filed by headman Sandah anak Tabau and other seven other NCR landowners over an area in Ulu Machan, Kanowit.

Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Mohd Raus Shariff, in a written judgment, said there is no law in Sarawak that gives the force of law to customary rights claims by the Dayaks over virgin forests as NCR lands. Read more

Tale of two Sarawak settlements a test of promise to natives

Source: The Malaysian Insider

Kampung Muk Ayun in Bengoh, Sarawak, surrounded by land belonging to the local Dayak community for many generations. – The Malaysian Insider pics by Seth Akmal, October 6, 2015.

About 45 minutes from Kuching are two Bidayuh settlements whose stories reflect how critical the growing land rights movement is towards securing a better future for Sarawak’s tribes.

The tale of how the villagers of Upper Bengoh stood up for their land rights is being repeated across Sarawak and could challenge a key promise made by new Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem as he tries to get his first electoral mandate in state elections due early next year.

Adenan has promised to do more to protect ancestral land claims, or Native Customary Rights (NCR) land, a key issue among the Dayak community who are the biggest bloc of voters in Sarawak.

But as seen in the story of two settlements – one that chose to stay put on their land and another that accepted the state government’s compensation – this promise is being tested. Read more