BAU: The amendment to the Sarawak Land Code (SLC) Ordinance last year gave Native Territorial Domain (NTD) a force of law to protect the proprietary (ownership) rights of Sarawakians.

Deputy State Attorney-General Saferi Ali said that the Federal Court’s decision in the case of Tuai Rumah Sandah Ak Tabau in 2016 had questioned the legal principles regarding the enforceability of the Iban land customs PMPG — ‘Pemakai Menoa’ (NTD) and ‘Pulau Galau’ (communal virgin forest).

“This prompted the Sarawak government to amend the Ordinance in order to give force of law as well as proprietary interests to the PMPG or now known as NTD. 

“If we look at the actual judgment (on the TR Sandah case), the dissenting judgment of Justice Zainun Ali recognised PMPG but limited it to usufructuary rights only, in which the claimants have the rights to use the land but they do not own the land.

“Thus, with the amendment by the state government, it gives you the proprietary rights (full ownership) on the land, however, it is not in the context of individual but instead, communal ownership,” he said.

He said this when presenting his paper on SLC (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 at an intellectual discourse held at Bau Civic Centre here, yesterday.

The NTD is defined as an area or territory within or conjoining or immediately adjacent to an area where native customary rights (NCR) have been created by the community in accordance to Section 5 and wherein members of a native community have from a date prior to the first day of January 1958, exercised usufructuary rights or preserved by them for such purposes.

On Section 6A of the SLC, Saferi stated that it allows any native community to claim usufructuary rights exercised and enjoyed by its members within the NTD by an application made to the superintendent of Land and Surveys provided that any area claimed as NTD shall not exceed 500 hectares; or the minister may, with the approval of the Majlis Mesyuarat Kerajaan Negeri in accordance with the Rules made herein, allow a claim of up to 1,000 hectares.

“Once the director of Land and Survey Department approved the claim, the superintendent shall issue a native communal title (NCT) describing the area as NTD. 

“That area then can be used exclusively by the native community for agricultural purposes or other purposes as may be approved by the Majlis Mesyuarat Kerajaan Negeri and subject to any other terms and conditions that the director may impose.

“NTD shall be issued in the name of a person or body of persons like Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA) who shall hold the NTD in trust for the native community named in the NCT in accordance with the rules.

“NTD shall also be in perpetuity, free of any premium, rent or other charges and not be assigned or transferred to any person who is not a member of the native community named therein,” he added.

He further said that any person whose application is rejected by the director may appeal to the minister within 30 days from the date when the decision of the director is conveyed to him.

The SLC (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 was effective since Aug 1 this year. 

A section of the crowd at the intellectual discourse held at Bau Civic Centre.