Nicholas Bawin AnggatSHAH ALAM, 30 Nov 2008: Sarawak delegates at Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s 5th national congress want native land rights to be recognised if the party takes over the state government.
Land titles should be given to Sarawak’s Orang Asal, as provided for under Native Customary Rights (NCR), said Nicholas Bawin Anggat who is PKR’s Sarawak liaison committee deputy chairperson.
“There is NCR in Sarawak, but land title is not given to us. Our right is not recognised by our government,” he said to strong applause from party delegates attending the three-day congress which ends today.
“I hope we will take this seriously,” said Nicholas, adding that there were currently about 200 land cases in court.
“We are like foreigners in our land. Gangsters often disturb and threaten the Orang Asal. We have no rights at all,” he said when debating the economic resolution.
He noted that during the British and Japanese occupation, native land rights were fully recognised by the colonial governments.
He urged PKR, if it forms the next Sarawak government, to give land titles to the Orang Asal so that they could obtain bank loans to develop their land.
Another Sarawak delegate, Baru Bian, echoed Nicholas’ hopes when debating the education resolution.
Baru said lands have been given to quarries, palm oil plantation and logging companies instead.
“When land disputes arise, the Orang Asal are often asked to show documentation of their land titles (which they don’t have).
“But land is a customary right. When we ask the state government to measure the land and give us land titles, they say they don’t have the budget,” said Baru.
A lawyer for many Orang Asal land cases, Baru also asked for land disputes in court to be settled expeditiously.
The other Orang Asal predicament that received major attention at PKR’s congress was water.
Nicholas said the Orang Asal suffered water disconnection for failing to pay their water bills.
“While Selangor enjoys free water, the Orang Asal owes (the Bintulu Public Works Department) RM2 million in water bills,” he said.
He noted that the Orang Asal owed the department since 1998 when they were forced to move to the Sungai Asap Resettlement Scheme because of the Bakun Hydroelectric Dam Project.
Nicholas added that when he attempted to register a new political party named Malaysian Dayak Congress in 2005, he was told that it first needed the approval of Barisan Nasional Sarawak leaders.
He said the right of the Orang Asal to form an association was a basic right that should not be denied.