By LINA SOO
LETTER: The Sarawak government has shamefully failed to protect the NCL rights of our Dayaks by appealing to the Federal Court to deny our natives customary rights over pemakai menoa (territorial domain) and pulau galau (communal forest reserve).
In a single stroke of the pen, the Federal Court had extinguished the rights of the natives over PMPG by declaring PMPG as having no force of law on 20 December 2016.
Our natives are now denied our forests which they had the customary right to collect forest resources for generations, even before the arrival of the Brookes, and hundreds of years before there is even Malaysia.
Land is a State resource (item 2 on the State list of the IGC report). With the Sarawak government appealing to the Federal judges of the Federal Court, the government had allowed a state matter to be decided by Federal judges who may have little knowledge of Sarawak native rights.
The Sarawak government has the prerogative not to bring land matters, which is a state power, to the highest court of the land – the Federal court – where no lower court can reverse the decision.
So now, for the Sarawak government to say that it will defend NCL rights is a paradox. How can a government defend a right which it has taken to the Federal court for it to be extinguished or wiped out in an instant?
Therefore, setting up committees and claiming in-depth study is just a delaying tactic and pulling the wool over the eyes.
The Sarawak government can still prove its sincerity by amending Sarawak land law to recognise PMPG to nullify the effect of the Federal Court judgement. This can only be through the legislative process in DUN.
If the Sarawak government is sincere and committed to restore PMPG rights to NCL owners, it can effectively undertake the legislative and constitutional process to put right the matter at the next DUN sitting, if it indeed has the political will.
- Lina Soo is president of STAR