Balai Ringin assemblyman Snowdan Lawan describes the anticipated meeting of Dayak leaders with Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem as the best platform for all Dayak leaders to rectify any shortcoming on issues surrounding native customary rights (NCRs) over land.
The Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) Youth chief thus called for all Dayak leaders to work together to achieve one common ground.
“All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else. In the case of our Pulau Galau (communal reserve forest) and Pemakai Menua (territorial domain), the existence of these two NCRs solely depend on how they are defined by Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak (Mais) and how the legal fraternity interprets them. And because of this, I strongly support PRS president Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing’s call for the council (Mais) to put up a clear definition to these two as there are also other pending court cases in regards to them.
“We have high hope for a positive outcome from the meeting, and subsequently, we would be able to formulate a mechanism to assist and provide feedback to Majlis Adat Istiadat on putting a clear definition on the Pulau Galau and Pemakai Menua. Anything is possible, as long as we hold the desire to put aside our differences to work together instead of finger pointing at one another. I believe many of us would like to see the vast section of the Dayak population inspired by the same desire and live for one common interest that binds them together far more than to separate them.” he added.
He thanked the chief minister for his initiative and willingness to sit down with all Dayak leaders to discuss the issues after the New Year.
The meeting is pertaining to the recent Federal Court decision on NCR over land which favours the government at the expense of the Dayak community. The court declared that these two NCRs are just mere customs and do not have the force of law, indicating that the Dayaks will be losing their land to the state.
“As being constantly preached by the CM that he is the chief minister for all races, I have faith in the CM to come up with a solution that will favour Dayaks on this land issue,” Snowdan said.
He is also hopeful that any outcome from the meeting would not compromise the Dayak custom as the issues on Pemakai Menua and Pulau Galau need to be addressed delicately.
He said the Dayak community was saddened by the verdict and hoped that the meeting will produce a favourable outcome to the Dayak community.
Dayak National Congress (DNC) president Mengga Mikui claimed the court viewed the native customs only from the government’s perception, saying the correct approach is to view the customs from the natives’ perspective.
“But in the case of TR Sandah, the Federal Court is contented in accepting the government’s perspective instead of the Dayaks’ perspective. In the light of that, there is an urgent need to re-look at the Judiciary, particularly regarding the panel of judges presiding over cases from the states of Borneo whose customs are peculiar to the two states of Sarawak and Sabah,” he said.
“The issue before the Federal Court that was brought up by the State Government of Sarawak is that – pemakai menoa and pulau galau have no force of law, in other words, the laws of Sarawak do not recognise them. Yes, the Sarawak Government acknowledges the existence of these two customs,” he said.
“But, they argue that the laws of Sarawak do not recognise them as part of the law of Sarawak – they only exist as customs. Putting the reasoning of the court aside, that is the gist of the decision. There are many reasons why the Dayak community has causes to complain about the judgment,” he added.
The Federal Court judges comprised five Malayans, with none of them ever had served in any of the two Borneo states.
“That speaks volumes of their lack of understanding and appreciation of the Dayak customs of Sarawak and Borneo. It is also a wonder why none of the panel members came from Sarawak or Sabah,” Mengga claimed.
He said this problem has been endemic for quite some time as only one member of the Federal Court comes from Sarawak, namely the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak.
“The issue on the number of judges from Sabah and Sarawak appointed to the Court of Appeal and Federal Court to reflect Malaysia as a country is important.
“The error and lack of local knowledge is mirrored in the judgment. The ruling of the Federal Court which only recognised temuda as NCR land is riddled with errors. The customs of pemakai menoa and pulau galau are age-old customs preceding even the Rajah Brookes’ era. During the Rajahs’ time, the Dayak customs were given much respect and recognition. The Second Rajah, Rajah Charles Brooke, in his final address to the Council Negri in 1917 before his demise warned the native communities of people with smiling faces who would deprive them of their lands and make them landless in their own lands. That warning was prophetic and now we are witnessing its fulfilment,” Mengga pointed out.
The custom of pemakai menoa has been recognised and administered by the Government of Sarawak. In 1939, the Secretariat Circular 12/1939 was issued directing the native communal lands, which are basically pemakai menoa, to be demarcated, he claimed.
Source : Churchill Edward @ The Borneo Post Online