KUCHING: The State Legislative Assembly (DUN) has passed the Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018 as announced by DUN Speaker, Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar here yesterday.
The debate on the Bill led by Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, who is also the Minister for Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land & Regional Development, revealed that it involved 35 State Assemblymen who spoke on the issue.
“I must record my appreciation to the Honourable Members of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) for their positive contribution in the debate on the Amendment Bill. They have participated in the debate professionally and objectively reflecting their understanding of the proposed Amendment Bill.
“They all aimed at contributing to shaping the Bill so that we introduce a law that helps to solve the problem in relation to native territorial domain. From what was reported in the media the day before, the Government was expecting a fiery and intense debate, but there was none, since we have covered everything in the Amendment Bill,” said Uggah during his winding up speech on the Bill at the new DUN complex in Petra Jaya.
The main objectives of the Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018 are to give Native Territorial Domain the force of law, to issue Native Communal Title in perpetuity, which will confer on such title a proprietary right to the native territorial domain. Once the title is issued, it will be treated as any title granted under the Land Code, and the proprietary interest in that title would be indefeasible by virtue of section 132 of the Land Code.
It is to resolve the problem arising from the Federal Court’s decision in TR Nyutan’s case relating to Provisional Leases and repeal provisions in the Land Code (Amendment) Ordinance, 2007 which have not come into force, resulting the reinstatement of Section 5(2)(f).
“I would also like to state that the Bill re-affirms the principle of inclusiveness. In fact, the Bill has been drafted in such a way so as to incorporate this principle. This is because in Sarawak, we have more than 30 native groups, each with their own customs and culture.
“For that reason, the term Native Territorial Domain is used rather than its equivalent, ‘Pemakai Menoa’ and ‘Pulau Galau’ for Iban, ‘Cari Makan’ for Malay, ‘Tu’an’ for Bidayuh, etc,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, in response to the points raised by Krian and Bintulu State Assemblymen that the Bill fell short of expectation because it only sought to confer usufructuary rights which was only the right to use and not to own the land, was apparent that both representatives did not understand the Bill and were confused.
“The term ‘usufructuary’ is merely descriptive of the customs and practices which would be legally recognised by the amended provisions to establish ownership rights to a native territorial domain. It is merely a process of claiming the area as their territorial domain.
“After the usufructuary right is established, the territorial domain will then be given a native communal title which confers a proprietory right on the territorial domain. This is giving ownership of the native territorial domain to the community. In other words, they own the territorial domain, not just the right to use. I hope this will clear the doubt on this issue. This is the product of the process,” he clarified.
On the submission of application to the Superintendent of Land and Survey, Uggah revealed that there has been a proposal for the formation of a committee or commission to assist the Land and Survey Department in verifying the claims and areas for native territorial domain.
“The Honourable Member for Tanjung Batu alleged that this amendment erodes the NCR land of the natives. This is not true. Let me emphasise that native territorial domain under Section 6A is over and above the right of a native or native community to claim NCR under Section 5.
“Therefore, it is not true that the natives will lose land ownership by this amendment as alleged by the Honourable Member for Tanjung Batu. His assertion reflects his lack of understanding of this amendment.
“The Honorable Members for Batu Lintang and Krian in their debate stated that it would be better to issue a title for native territorial domain under Section 18 rather than under the proposed new Section 6A. With due respect, the new Section 6A and Section 18 cater for two different situations.
“Section 18 provides for the issuance of a title to an individual who has occupied and used any unalienated land in accordance with rights acquired by customary tenure amounting to (individual) ownership of the land for residential and agricultural purposes, whereas under the proposed new Section 6A, a native communal title is to be issued to a native community in respect of native territorial domain (virgin jungle) in which the native community have exercised and is exercising usufructuary rights,” he said. 22 State Assemblymen had expressed their concerns that the limit of 500 hectares for a native community under Section 6A would not be fair and just as some of the communities’ requirement and needs would exceed the threshold. They suggested that the limit be increased to 1,000 hectares.
“The Government has taken note of this suggestion/proposal. As you are aware, a motion to amend the Bill to increase the area in the manner proposed in the motion has been circulated to the Honourable Members of this House.
“The above proves that the Government is listening and where the proposal is reasonable, we will adjust to accommodate the proposal as evidenced above. The Honourable Members for Layar, Meluan, Ngemah, Piasau and Bukit Semuja have also proposed that the issuance of the native communal title be granted not just in perpetuity but free of premium, rent and other charges.
“This had always been the intention of the Government. However, to make the Government’s intention clearer, this will be reflected through an amendment to the Bill, of which a motion to do so has been circulated to all the Honourable Members of this House,” he said.
Uggah also reassured that all native communities in Sarawak that the State was committed to ensure that the proprietary interests over native territorial domain were protected and Native Communal Title were rightfully issued to the respective native communities in accordance with the Land Code.
“I am confident that this Amendment Bill will definitely resolve the controversies surrounding the subject of native territorial domain. Through this Bill, the Government has given the custom of creating the native territorial domain the force of law.
“Secondly, the Government has ensured that the interest over this native territorial domain be one that carries with it a proprietory right. To further protect this proprietory right, the Bill provides for a native communal title, to be recognised as a document of title issued under the Land Code.
“This title is indefeasible and no provisional leases can deprive the native community of their rights. The Government has also ensured that the natives will continue to enjoy this right by providing that the tenure over native territorial domain be in perpetuity.
“Further, to ensure that the native territorial domain continues to remain within the control and ownership of the native community, no dealings in the land which could result in the native community losing their precious land to other parties are allowed,” said Uggah.
Uggah also appealed to natives of Sarawak to give the new law a chance as well as to everyone to not politicise and sensationalise this issue least of all instigate the natives against the Government.
“This Bill reflects the commitment and sincerity of the Government under the leadership of Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi (Dr) Abang Johari Tun Openg in resolving matters close to the hearts of the Rakyat. Let us move forward forging goodwill and strengthening the bond of unity in Sarawak as we advance together to be a developed state,” he concluded.