Sarawak CM’s aide: Federal Court's dismissal of review application over customary rights land claim purely academic

Sulok Tawie
Sarawak Chief Minister’s political aide Susan Chemerai Anding says the Federal Court’s dismissal of a review application by the native plaintiffs in the Tuai Sandak anak Tabu land case is purely academic. — Reuters pic

KUCHING, Sept 12 ― The Federal Court’s dismissal of a review application by the native plaintiffs in the Tuai Sandak anak Tabu land case is purely academic, political secretary to Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg clarified today.

Susan Chemerai Anding said it has no bearing on the Sarawak Land Code (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 and the Land (Native Communal Title) Rules 2019, both are the governing laws applicable to the issue on the customary rights over Pemakai Menoa (Territorial Domain) and Pulau Galau (Communal Forest Reserves) or PMPG.

“Whether PMPG has the force of law has been answered loud and clear when the Sarawak government through the land code amendment passed by Sarawak State Assembly on July 12, 2018, giving legal recognition and force of law to PMPG, now known as Native Territorial Domain (NTD)” she said.

“Therefore, irrespective of the outcome of the judicial review, the state assembly has already given legal recognition and force of law to PMPG,” Chemerai, who is a lawyer, said in response to Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian’s comments on the Federal Court’s dismissal of the review application.

In an immediate response to the apex court’s dismissal of the review application yesterday, Baru had said the issues on whether PMPG had the force of law had remained unanswered.

He had said there a few other similar NCR land cases awaiting to be heard pending the outcome of the Tuai Rumah Sandah case.

Chemerai said the state government has done more than just giving force of law to PMPG, adding that it has made a radical move under this amendment ordinance, by giving natives, proprietary rights to their PMPG/NTD through the issuance of Native Communal Title (NCT) under the new Section 6A of the land code.

“PMPG/NTD can now be applied by natives using Form NTD A with supporting documents and evidences, as provided for under the Land (Native Communal Title) Rules 2019 which came into effect on August 1, 2019.

“Form NTD A is available at the Land and Survey Offices throughout the state as well as at the District Offices and online.

“PMPG/NTD applied for and approved will be issued with a provisional Native Communal Title which will become a final title upon completion of survey and registration. The NCT is in perpetuity and indefeasible,” she said.

Chemerai also said the enactment of these ordinances and rules meant that PMPG rights and issues in Sarawak are now settled law.

She said the discussions on PMPG should move away from the past rhetoric so that natives can move on and begin the task of claiming or asserting their PMPG/NTD rights over their ancestral land through the avenue provided by the government.

On December 20, 2016, the Federal Court in Putrajaya reversed the decisions of both the Court of Appeal and High Court of Sibu in the case of director of forest, Sarawak & Anor v TR Sandah & Ors.

In reversing the decisions in favour of the state government and the director of forest, the apex court had ruled the Iban customs had no force of law over PMPG.

The respondents claimed Native Customary Rights (NCR) over 5,639 hectares of land which they and their ancestors inherited by virtue of the Iban custom of PMPG.

Related Articles Minister says Sarawak DCM misinterpreted land code proposal National Land Code in Sarawak? State PKR leader says it is unthinkable Sarawak DCM: Suggestion by Pakatan minister to adopt national land code rejected