Angry Ibans shocked at having 'lost' their land to a nearby Malay community following a government's perimetre survey exercise are demanding their NCR rights.
KUCHING: Some 145 angry Iban families from Kampung Nangka and Kampung Entingan in Kota Samarahan – the parliamentary constituency of Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s son Sulaiman Rahman – are demanding the return of 599 acres of native customary right (NCR) land.
They warned that if their demands are ignored then the villagers will hold demonstrations against the government.
“We are giving the government one month from now to return our land, failing which we will carry out demonstrations to highlight our claim,” said Kampung Nangka chief, Minggu Julan.
He said the government had no right to take away land that they had been toiling on for generations.
“We are the fourth generation owners of the NCR land where we are still planting paddy, oil palm, rubber and fruit trees. It is wrong for the government to take away our land and give it to other people and communities,” he said, referring to a Sarawak Government Gazette notification dated April 7, 2011.
According to the notification, the area has been declared by order of the Ministry of Planning and Resource Management to be native communal (agriculture) Reserve for the “exclusive use of the Malay Community” of Kampung Pinang, Samarahan for agricultural purposes.
Minggu, who was speaking at a news conference at the DAP headquarters here, said their forefathers had occupied the land even before the Charles Vyner Brooke rule of Sarawak.
(Charles Vyner Brooke became the third Rajah of Sarawak from May 24, 1917 to 1946).
Also present at the press conference were Edward Luak, chairman of Serian DAP branch and about 30 landowners.
Unaware of govt intentions
Merine Sakking, another villager, said that he was shocked to learn that his land planted with oil palm was gazetted as communal reserve for the Malay community of Kpg Pinang.
“What was even more shocking was that hundreds of acres of NCR land of the Iban community of Kpg Entingan and Kpg Nangka were also included in the gazette,” he said.
Merine said that their boundary with the Malay as well with the Bidayuh community was well defined and was common knowledge to all communities for decades.
“We have lived as friendly neighbours in the vicinity with honour and respect as our core principles. We live in co-existence with one another,” he said.
He said that the people of Kpg Entingan and Kpg Nangka were totally in the dark about the perimeter survey exercise being conducted and they were never consulted regarding their land boundary.
“We were unaware of any notice on the intention to declare the land as communal reserve,” he added.
Luak said that the government agency (Land and Survey Department) deliberately overlooked the need to inform the people of the survey exercise.
“It failed to take into account that the land was NCR land of the Iban community. A serious mistake on the part of the government agency could breed serious conflicts amongst the various ethnic groups. DAP sees this slip in administrative procedure as a serious matter that needs to be resolved urgently, ” Luak said.
‘It’s not cheap publicity’
He expressed shock that the government agencies were nonchalant about land issues when it is known fact that land is integral to the native Sarawakian and a source of their livelihood.
“Surprisingly the government and the government agencies seemed to take this matter lightly and take no action whatsoever.
“The attitude and inaction of the government agencies go to show that the ‘people first, performance now’ slogan remains merely a slogan.
“Has the civil service deteriorated from what it used to be?’ asked Luak, who was one time the Divisional Development Officer.
He called on Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management, not to regard the issue as “cheap publicity of DAP.”
“It is a very serious matter especially when it involves two communities,” he said.
Luak also said that the villagers have submitted a memorandum to Awang Tengah with a copy to Land Development Minister James Masing.
“So far there has been no action from the government. The villagers have also lodged a police report,” he said.