The Sarawak government should enact a law to formally recognise the native Dayak people’s customary rights over virgin forests as their territorial domain and communal forest reserve, state PKR chief Baru Bian said today.
“If Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing and other Dayak state assemblymen are serious about pemakai menoa and pulau galau, the power is still in their hands to pass a law to recognise this customary rights,” he said.
The lawyer who is also Ba’Kelalan assemblyman was responding to Masing’s criticism against the Council of Dayak Customs and Traditions for failing to give clear definition to the terms pemakai menoa (territorial domain) and pulau galau (communal forest reserves).
Under the Dayak customs, pemakai menoa and pulau galau are part of their native customary rights (NCR) land.
Baru had represented village headman Sandah anak Tabau and seven others in their recent court appeal against the Sarawak Forest Department and the state government on the issue, which they lost yesterday.
“The Federal Court did not have an issue with the existence or even the definition of pemakai menoa or pulau galau, and in fact, they (judges) agreed that the custom of pemakai menua and pulau galau has been in existence since time immemorial but the ultimate question they considered was whether such adat or customs have the force of law,” he said.
Baru said his legal team had submitted in court all the definitions of pemakai menoa and pulau galau from the late AJN Richards, a colonial officer who was an authority on Dayak customs; the late Tan Sri Gerunsin Lambat, a former president of the Dayak council; Prof Dimbab Ngidang of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak; and Nicholas Bawin, a former deputy president of the Dayak council.
“The definition of these two terms was never in dispute,” he added, pointing out that Masing’s explanation on the Federal Court’s decision is completely off the mark.
In allowing an appeal by the Sarawak Forest Department and the state government yesterday, Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Mohd Raus Shariff had said there was no law in Sarawak that that gave the force of law to customary rights claims by the Dayaks over virgin forests as NCR lands.
He had said Sarawak Land Code, Tusun Tunggu (Codified Customary Laws), Iban Adat 1993 and a number of Rajah Orders only recognise cultivated land (temuda) as NCR land.
Source : @ The Malay Mail Online