KUCHING, Nov 5 — Works Minister Baru Bian today defended the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government against criticisms for not giving a specific allocation in the federal Budget 2019 for the perimeter survey of native customary rights (NCR) land in Sarawak.
He said the critics were implying that the PH government is not concerned about NCR land and not treating it as an important issue.
Baru pointed out that land matters are not under the purview of the federal government and nor does it have any say in state land matters.
“Any allocation, if given, is a bonus,” he explained in response to the criticisms.
Baru, who is also Sarawak PKR chief, told the critics that the issue of surveying NCR land is not as important to the people as the recognition of native customary rights to their land.
“This is because NCR exists whether it is surveyed or not and its existence does not arise from a survey,” he said.
He slammed the state government for not having done its utmost to protect the rights of the people, but had instead put in a half-hearted attempt, recognising only the usufructuary rights of the people on the land and not in the land.
Baru, who had handled hundreds of NCR land cases as a practising lawyer, said an amendment to the Sarawak Land Code in the last sitting of the State Legislative Assembly had restricted the ‘adat’ (customs) of the natives by putting a limit on the area claimable to a maximum of 1,000 hectares.
He argued that the much-publicised survey of NCR land in Sarawak is carried out under section 6 and not under section 18 of the land code.
“Section 18 is the preferred option as it is personal in nature whereas section 6 is still uncertain in terms of its legal position, that is, whether the land surveyed is native,” he said.