Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud publicly revealed his ignorance of the law when he said that there had been no land grabs in Sarawak, according to state PKR chief Baru Bian, a lawyer well known for his advocacy of native customary rights (NCRs).
Commenting on a statement that Taib made last Wednesday, he said the chief minister either was unable to understand the Sarawak Land Code or had been misled by his advisers.
“I advise him and his advisers to study carefully the provisions of the Land Code, especially Section 15 Clause 1,” Bian said today.
According to the clause, NCR land cannot be alienated or used for a public purpose until all NCRs have been surrendered or terminated or after compensations have been made.
Last Wednesday, Taib claimed that all land yet to be granted to the people is state land and the government has never had a reason to grab land belonging to the people.
“As we all know,” the chief minister said, “most development starts from land. Unfortunately, some quarters try to mislead the people so that they will oppose these projects for fear that the government will take away their land.
“Why should the government grab people’s land when all the land that has yet to be granted to the people belongs to the government?”
Bian pointed out that he and other lawyers had won several cases against the alienation of NCR land and the granting of such land to big companies.
“My law firm alone has won more than 10 cases,” he said.
“NCR lands have no titles. A lot of people don’t understand that because they have no title, they are always subject to proof of occupation.
“There is a list of NCR lands being alienated under provisional leases, timber licences, and quarry licences.”
“Taib is wrong, and what he said is not true, because there exist NCR lands within the state land.
“The government can lease only state land. This is the legal concept that people don’t understand.”
He said his court victories were clear proof that NCR lands were alienated by the government and given to those with no right to them.
“This is what we call land grab,” he said.
“Taib is making a sweeping and misleading statement. He is either wrongly advised or he does not know the Land Code.
“I want him to read Section 15 of the Land Code. Like in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of which Malaysia is a signatory, there must be prior consultation and consent from the natives before their land is taken for a public purpose.”
Asked whether his debate with Taib on the NCR land issue was still on, Bian said: “I don’t think he will accept it. And as far as we are concerned, we will fight the government in court.
“But the fastest and most effective way for us is to change the government.”