Native Customary Rights Land in Sarawak survives
By Chendang Hollis
2001-05-12 | "Sarawak Native Customary Rights (NCR) to land does not owe its existence to the statutes. These rights existed long before ..." The High Court in Kuching pronounced this morning.
"Sarawak Native Customary Rights (NCR) to land does not owe its existence to the statutes. These rights existed long before ..." The High Court in Kuching pronounced this morning.
In a historical judgment by the High Court Judge Datuk Ian Chin, delivered by the Deputy Registrar Tuan Timothy Joel in his Chamber this morning, the High Court held that the Plaintiffs' [the native communities in Sebauh, Bintulu] rights to temuda, pulau and pemakai menoa, all native Iban terms to describe customary rights to land-use, had survived all the Orders of the Rajah Brooke era and legislations under the English colonial government and the present state government.
The much awaited judgement came after a long 2 years court battle brought about by Rumah Nor, a 64-door longhouse communities against a Pulp and Paper tree-plantation operation. The communities had named as defendants, in order, Borneo Pulp Plantation Sdn Bhd, Borneo Pulp and Paper Sdn Bhd and the Sarawak State Land and Survey Department which issued the NCR land to Borneo Pulp Plantation Sdn Bhd.
Its now landmark decision centers around the definition of the Native Customary Rights to include not just those land immediate to the longhouse communities and their farming land, but with the latest judgement, the rights now extend to include forests, rivers and streams.
The Native Customary Rights to land had been exercised in the disputed area by the plaintiffs and their ancestors until they were prevented to do so by the destruction of the trees by the Defendants for the purpose of planting trees.
In the 96-page judgment, Datuk Ian Chin made a declaration that the native community of Rumah Nor are entitled to exercise native customary rights over the section of the land granted by the Sarawak state government to the company, where there are NCR land claims.
The High Court also ordered an injunction against the Defendant companies and their servants or agents from entering the said disputed land.
The Judge further declared void the land title issued to the Borneo Pulp Plantation Sdn Bhd and asked that the Sarawak Lands and Survey Department rectify the title so as to exclude the disputed area from the grant.
The High Court ordered costs to the Plaintiffs against all the Defendants, but made no order as to damages as it was his judgment that there is insufficient evidence to support the award of any sum.
200 people of all races, predominantly natives, from across the state turned up in Court today and they were overjoyed when the lawyer for the natives, Mr. Baru Bian read out and explained the judgment to them. The news was obviously too overwhelming to them that many elders were seen crying unashamedly.
Among the crowd were Keadilan's State leaderships seen at the courthouse congratulating the people's victory.