Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) concedes that Dayaks have been insulted by the Federal Court’s decision that native customary rights (NCR) over Pulau Galau and Pemakai Menoa land has no force of law because they are just customs and practices.
Its deputy president Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi said the federal court should not have come to that conclusion. He contended that pulau galau and pemakai menoa were customs practised long before the formation of Malaysia.
He likened the two types of land as saving and fixed deposit accounts for the Dayaks. “The customs is such that pulau galau land is not occupied on purpose so members of the Dayak community living nearby can use the trees there for timber to build their longhouses, boats and coffins.
“The pemakai menoa land is also not occupied on purpose so that the whole area – pegged by mountains, hills and rivers for boundaries – could be used for hunting, fishing and other sources of food.
“So when people now say that a certain forest area is still virgin or not yet occupied, and therefore not Temuda (formerly occupied land recognised as NCR), this is wrong. Even though pulau galau and pemakai menoa lands are not occupied, these areas are reserved for many useful purposes. Such is our custom which has been practised by us the Dayaks long before the formation of Malaysia,” he said when met on Wednesday.
He added: “I feel insulted by the decision and I think I am representing the view of most Dayaks.
“Naturally, I am disappointed with the decision that pulau galau and pemakai menoa are not recognised as NCRs. As Dayaks we all know that NCR lands are very much part of our customs and traditions and for all intent and purposes, pulau galau especially is our right and asset. “I also consider NCR land very much part of our livelihood. I hope when it gets to the next stage people will decide (in favour of the Dayaks) and as far as I am concerned they should recognise these NCR lands, especially pulau galau as law,” he said.
Nanta also called on Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak (MAI), the state authority on native customs and traditions, to play a more proactive role in identifying NCR lands and also in defining their meaning so that non-Dayaks could understand their significance to the Dayak community.
Nanta, who is also Deputy Minister of Rural and Regional Development and Kapit MP, said there would be a close- door meeting among Dayak leaders over the situation soon.
“In fact, we have been calling each other about this.
“I hope other authorities (apart from MAI) would sort this out once and for all for the Dayaks, even though the court has made its decision. I hope the review of the federal court’s decision could reverse the situation,” he said.
On Tuesday, SDNU president Tan Sri William Mawan said he supported the move by lawyer Baru Bian to file a review of the Federal Court’s decision.
Mawan, who is also Saratok MP and Pakan assemblyman, however said he would rather wait for a court decision on the review rather than make assumptions, arguing that legal avenues over the matter should be exhausted, first and foremost.
The issue stemmed from a case involving claimant Tuai Rumah Sandah Tabau over his disputed land in Ulu Machan, Kanowit.
On Tuesday, three Federal Court judges decided in favour of the government by stating that these NCRs have no force of law and that members of the native community could not stake their claim solely on mere assumption that these were NCR lands without offering evidence they had exercised their rights by using the areas of the disputed land for food production, fishing and hunting.
However, only one judge decided in favour of the native when he said pre-existence rights under the native laws which the common law respected included the right to virgin or primary forests which the natives preserved as source of their livelihood. Earlier, the High Court and the Court of Appeal were in favour of the natives, only for their decisions to be dismissed by the Federal Court on Tuesday.
A review on the decision, if allowed, will in effect put the case before a different panel of Federal Court judges.
Also on Tuesday, Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDS) claimed that failure of the court to recognise these two types of land underscored the ignorance of the judges on the importance of Malaysia Agreement 1963 which formed the basis of the native rights over their land.
Source : @ The Borneo Post Online