Hornbill Unleashed

February 23, 2010

Another Victory for the Sarawak NCR Landowners

By HUeditor

The year of the tiger has roared in favour of the Sarawak Native Customary Rights landowners, again, today as the Federal Court sitting in Kuching on 21st February 2010 dismissed an application by the Sarawak Government to review its own decision delivered in October last year.

The case involving more than 600 Sarawak native landowners, Amit Salleh and others from Bintulu had gone through the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court, with judgment given in their favour.

Refer to the various judgments downloadable here.

Amit  Salleh – APPELLATE JURISDICTION -21-February 2009

Amit Salleh – Court of Appeal – 28-April-2008

Amit Salleh – High Court Suit – 12 May-2005

The former Sarawak Attorney-General, Datuk JC Fong, was however not satisfied. Representing the Sarawak State Government, Datuk Fong and State Legal Officer Encik Saferi Ali sought the apex court’s review of its own decision this morning.

The Sarawak State Government’s application was, however, dismissed with costs to the native landowners.

What is so special about this case?

For decades, the Sarawak BN under long serving Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud had argued that NCR lands are unproductive and thus, the Sarawak natives will remain poor unless these lands are commercially developed. Under such attractive, amid misguided and one-sided concept, the Sarawak Government was allegedly and had literally bulldozed through hundreds of thousands of NCR lands to turn them into “productive” lands. This continues to be done through alienating lands to private capitals brokered through the State Government and or the ruling Barisan Nasional politicians.

Amit Salleh and 663 other villagers of the Kedayan/Melanau/Malay communities of Kuala Nyalau and Ulu Nyala, Suai, Sarawak had proceeded to develop their NCR lands with a private company to plant teak and other commercial trees. Covering over 1000 hectares, and with teak woods in good demands, the communities and their joint venture private entity would have reap much and definitely uplift their economic wellbeings, if any. After all, the plaintiffs have claimed for compensation of over RM100 million in damages, only to be assessed and determined by the court.

Not only did the Sarawak state government not support or approve such community initiative, it took administrative steps to ruin the enterprising joint venture.

On the surface, what these Kedayan/Melanau/Malay villagers had done to their NCR lands was exactly what the Sarawak Government had wanted to do – to develop supposedly unproductive NCR lands by turning them to commercial production. So why then did the Sarawak Government not only did not support such community efforts but tried to kill off such community-business venture?

One difference

The communities concerned had by-pass any middle-person or institution. Unlike the government sanctioned development model, the communities had entered into a joint venture directly with a private capital, thus by-passing any government institution or politician as “broker”.

From its own arguments, the reasons put forth by the Sarawak government to appeal against the community-business venture is against the very reasons that the Sarawak state government continues to use to justify its land development policy. Under such circumstances, can the NCR landowners still have any trust whatsoever left that the Sarawak state government, under the ruling Barisan Nasional, is sincere in “helping” the economically poor NCR landowners?

How else to arrive at such conclusion when the Sarawak state government, through Datuk JC Fong, had turned and twisted arguments for developing supposedly unproductive NCR lands into against the same development of NCR lands by communities themselves directly with private entity?

Mekanda Singh Sandhu, John Antau, Musa Dinggat and Sathinda Singh Sandhu are lawyers representing Amit Salleh and all the other native landowners.


  1. Any development on this case? If anybody know any news please update here

    Comment by Pulpa — July 5, 2012 @ 11:02 AM | Reply

  2. Report from http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

    Court awards villagers RM67m
    April 9, 2011

    The state government’s constant appeal of a High Court judgment favouring more than 600 villagers has proven to be extremely costly.

    By Priscilla Watson

    BINTULU: Some 640 villagers from Kuala Nyalau and Ulu Nyalau here were awarded RM66.75 million by the Bintulu High Court, bringing to an end a 13-year-long legal battle between them and the state government.

    Deputy Registrar of the Miri High Court, Musyiri Peet, arrived yesterday in Bintulu to deliver the ruling in the High Court here.

    He also ordered the state government to pay RM200,000 cost and imposed an 8% interest rate per annum effective from 1998 until 2011.

    Musyiri, in assessing the damages before awarding the amount to the villagers, said he had taken into consideration various factors like not all teak trees were growing well and that they were not matured yet for harvesting.

    A legal officer from state attorney-general’s office was also present when the judgment was read out.

    Villagers Amit Salleh, Bak Drahman, Sapuan Abdullah and Chapon anak Banyai, on behalf of 636 other villagers, had sued the superindent of the Land and Survey Department, Bintulu, the Minister of Planning and Resource Management and the state government of Sarawak for seizing their land.

    In their statement of claim, the villagers claimed the government had expropriated 3,022 acres of native customary rights (NCR) land in 1998 for the purpose of constructing an aluminum smelter plant.

    The villagers said they were given an alternative site located in Tanjong Panyung, which was swampy and unsuitable for planting.

    The villagers were seeking damages of RM101,932,180 being the loss of profit and income purportedly derived from the 713,390 teak trees and 3,000 plus sendang trees which they had planted on the site prior to the seizure by the state.

    They won the case in the Bintulu High Court presided by Justice Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim.

    Dissatisfied with the judgment, the government had appealed the matter before the Appellate Court.

    The Appellate Court, however, upheld the High Court’s ruling.

    Still disgruntled, the government further appealed the case before Federal Court, but the judgment remained at status quo.

    Comment by Pulpa — April 11, 2011 @ 9:17 AM | Reply

  3. […] Hornbill Unleashed BN Sarawak, Native Customary Rights, PBB, PRS, Politics, Politics of Development, SPDP, SUPP NCR Land Development […]

    Pingback by Another Victory for the Sarawak NCR Landowners - Cobbold John — March 25, 2010 @ 9:39 AM | Reply

  4. […] “One difference – The communities concerned had by-pass any middle-person or institution. Unlike the government sanctioned development model, the communities had entered into a joint venture directly with a private capital, thus by-passing any government institution or politician as “broker”. ” – from Hornbill Unleashed […]

    Pingback by The (Dayak) Catcher In The Rye « The Dyaks Blog — February 27, 2010 @ 3:56 PM | Reply

  5. One of patriotic songs has this line; “Yang lemah dilindungi”. Meaning, protect the weak. How does bulldozing and demolishing longhouses of Sarawak natives look like?

    The new Sarawak government led by Baru Bian will strengthen the weak. The landless natives will be given, at the least, temporary occupation rights to good land to farm or develop. This is done in many states in the country. In some states, land parcels in sizes of 3 hectares are offered at token of RM100 a year for 30 years to any state resident who wants to put up a farm.

    For the new Government led by Baru Bian, real GDP growth comes from where the majority of people live. The biggest chunk of Sarawak’s GDP must come from the rural areas as that is where wealth must be created. While the state BN plunders the rural land and rob the rural people of their land, Baru Bian’s administration will ensure that real wealth is generated from the rural and NCR land.

    It is a fact that Sarawak’s land is the most fertile for oil palm cultivation compared to West Malaysia land. How is it that Salcra can’t pay dividend even after 10 years? Oil palm plantations in the least fertile areas in West Malaysia, are able to reap profits within 5 years and pay dividend. The state BN’s and Salcra’s land development model only enriches the BN politicians.

    Comment by Peen Keening — February 23, 2010 @ 10:15 PM | Reply

  6. It is trite to repeat this political principle, “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. These native land issue cases reflects the state of political health in Sarawak. When too much reliance is placed on one arm of government, the destruction of civil government ensues. Sincere and open consultation is not practiced. Therefore, the resulting corruption of moral actions is inevitable. When moral actions are corrupt, vain ideas such as commercializing the use of ancestral land is thought of and taken as progressive thinking. Actions must be relevant to the need, speech must be relevant to the occasion, and thought must be relevant to the intent and spirit. This is the style of the libertarian gentleman and should serve as a guideline to all civic minded citizens participating in public affairs. Culture and tradition is the safeguard of nations because it is only them that will perish if defence is not carried out in the face of attack. The value of defending a tradition or culture cannot be computed as it can only be felt. Money and profits can be computed, but never valued. How could then, ancestral land be converted to commercial ventures that does not defend culture and tradition? If it doesn’t, then how could the natives be considered deficient when they know that ancestral land is for cultural survival? If they are not deficient, then why should they be thought that their land should be developed for commercial gains and their village lifestyle is inferior to others?

    Comment by Fabian Ngui — February 23, 2010 @ 3:04 PM | Reply

    • Cool thoughts, “action must be relevant to the need” thats profound and holds true in Sarawak today. The goverment talks about dams, economic corridors and foreign direct investments, meanwhile back at the farm the natives are being squeezed out of existence.

      How much electricity we can supply to west malaysia doesn’t mean a thing when the majority of the population here subsists around the poverty line.

      What then do we do with a government that has stopped listening to its people? Definitely an immediate merger with PRS is not the answer…

      Comment by home boy — February 23, 2010 @ 5:18 PM | Reply

  7. Kudos to the Sarawakian NCR landowners! Well done, this has grave implications for the State Government and those cronies companies which have benefitted at the expense of the people of S’wak!

    This is a positive step in the right direction.

    Time for change!

    Comment by fedup — February 23, 2010 @ 1:36 PM | Reply

  8. […] then another timely sms came through from a PKR Wanita exco,” NCR.Case which we won that day..both appeal by company  and state governmentfor Stay was dismissed by Coiurt […]

    Pingback by “Pakatan and BN Propaganda…Rakyat.??” « Audie61’s Weblog — February 23, 2010 @ 12:51 PM | Reply

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