KUCHING: A Sarawak PKR leader today accused the BN government of trying to hoodwink and mislead the indigenous communities so as to maintain their electoral support by saying that the declaration of native communal reserves is a confirmation and a statutory recognition of native ownership over their NCR land.
“There is no truth and substance in the statement of the lands and surveys that a declaration of native communal reserves is a confirmation and statutory recognition of native ownership over their NCR land,” said Ali Biju, vice-chairman of Sarawak PKR.
Ali, who is also the state assemblyman for Krian, was commenting on a statement issued by the lands and surveys which dismissed Ali’s earlier claim that the perimeter survey and the declaration of NCR land under section 6 of Sarawak Land Code as native communal reserves will downgrade the NCR land status.
“Contrary to Ali’s claims, rights over the land gazetted as communal reserve land was administered and regulated by the native system of personal law of the native communities concerned,” said the statement.
“This means the acquisition, usage, transfer or transmission of rights and privileges over land, buildings or any structure thereon shall be governed by the customary law of the native communities for whose benefit the communal reserve is declared.
“Lands within a native communal reserve are not held by the natives on trust for the government as alleged by YB Ali Biju.
“The native communities having a native communal reserve have control over their land and will also be able to detect and prevent any unlawful intrusion or encroachment upon their land because the gazette will describe clearly land within the declared native communal reserve and refer to an official plan to define the precise boundaries thereof,” said the statement.
In countering the statement, Ali said: “The BN government is trying to hoodwink and mislead the indigenous communities so as to maintain their electoral support by saying that a declaration and a statutory recognition of native ownership over their NCR land.
“There is no truth and substance in the statement of the lands and surveys,” he said.
Section 6 (3) of the land code which concerns native communal reserves provides that ‘such land (native communal reserves) shall continue to be state land, and the native community for whose use it was reserved or any member thereof acquiring any rights therein shall hold the same as a licensee from the government....’
Ali said: “There is no difference from the presently native in occupation of NCR land without a document of title, that they are ‘deemed to be holding by licence from the government’ according to section 5(1)(i) of Sarawak Land Code.
“The land code is in need of a total revamp, in view of the authoritative judicial interpretation and elucidation of the meanings and scope of NCR, to be of relevance and proper and legal application,” he said.
“The perimeter survey works carried out by the government is a relegation and unlawful confine of the NCR, benefiting only those ‘BNputras’ who are prying on NCR land for their own financial gains, through their control of state government and state machineries,” Ali claimed.
The perimeter survey is a project of Prime Minister Najib Razak to win over the hearts and minds of the native communities.
It was launched just before the state election in April when he announced an allocation of RM20 million to carry out the project.
Another RM60 million was added to the amount during the campaigning period.
There are more than 1.6 million hectares of NCR lands which were hot issues during the state election especially when the Opposition accused the government of taking away the lands and leased them to oil palm conglomerates and timber companies.
Unhappy landowners have sued the government. Currently there are more than 200 cases pending hearing in the High Court.