Suhakam frequently receives complaints on land use rights

Datuk Dr Madeline Berma

KUCHING: Complaints pertaining to the rights to land use by the Orang Asal (natives) is one of the most frequently received issues by Suhakam Sarawak, said its commissioner Datuk Dr Madeline Berma.

“Suhakam Sarawak has been receiving complaints that these rights were continuously violated even though both the Malaysian constitution and the Sarawak Land Code provide protections for Native Customary Rights (NCR) land.

“The complaints received touched on how they could not use their land in accordance with their traditional rights, to cultivate the land, for burials, to inherit and transfer,” she added.

She explained that the communities first had to adhere to the Violations of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) upon the relocation of their longhouses.

“In one case, a dialogue session was held with the involvement of the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) Rajang Branch, Public Works Department (JKR), district office and Land and Survey Department.

“The affected villagers were also given adequate compensation along with site-preparation for relocation of the longhouse. This was done to respect the rights of the longhouse residents,” she told New Sarawak Tribune on Thursday in conjunction with Human Rights International Day.

Another pertinent issue was on the undocumented Orang Asal living in the rural and interior areas.

“There are Sarawakians, particularly the Orang Asal in the rural and interior areas who are stateless or undocumented; without MyKad (identification cards). Thus, they were not able to enjoy access to health facilities, education and working with the government,” Madeline said.

The right of Orang Asal to education is protected by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) for the state and federal government to commit and to provide education to all Malaysians, she asserted.

“However, there are complaints in terms of rural communities’ access to quality education, the widening digital gap, and dilapidated schools.

“Some were halted or denied from furthering their education due to lack of documentation, which brings up the next point — statelessness or un-documented Sarawakians.

“Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. It includes the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.

“Based on universal human rights, every Sarawakian is entitled to these rights without discrimination,” she stressed.