Sunday, October 11, 2009

Native Land Rights

If we study the political struggle of SUPP since its inception, it was clear that the dayak community had been left behind as the Party had failed to work towards the interest of the dayaks by failing to protect their land, their most important assets. SUPP could not until now lived up to its election manifesto, “What SUPP Stands For”, published in 1969 which said that the Party would protect the land rights of the dayaks by revising laws relating to land to enable the dayaks to hold individual land titles. This matter had not until now been aggressively pursued by SUPP although it is in the government by virtue of being a coalition member of the state BN. SUPP had not through its leaders done enough for the dayaks and the indigenous people of Sarawak.
Being the oldest party in the State and being a senior partner in the state BN, SUPP is at the mercy of PBB as land matters are held by Ministers from PBB. Of course, the other two parties, that is, PRS and SPDP being junior partners in the state coalition could not do much to help the dayaks to protect their lands. It is a rule that if seniors can't talk, can one expect the juniors to talk and be busy body?

Most of the native lands in Sarawak had not until now been surveyed. We now could see that without land titles issued to them, there arose frequent land disputes involving lands alienated to some individuals and companies. The Batu Niah incident a few years ago involving ibans in which led to the loss of lives could have been averted had the dayaks felt their land been properly protected. Under the present law, unless you hold document of title to the land, you are not a land owner. So, how can dayaks be said to have land when they were not issued with document of titles to their native lands? The dayaks shouted at the top of their voice and even performed the “miring” each time disputes over their land were brought to court, but, still the land would not be theirs, not until, these important documents be issued to them. The only right the dayaks have to these lands was only to use them without interference from other communities as long as the government would not use them for development. When their lands need to be developed as oil palm plantation or for other purposes, the government could just take them away from them with a stroke of a pen. The poor dayaks could claim the lands as theirs and been taken away. They may protest against it, but, what could they do? They were helpless people and were at the mercy of their own political leaders whom they elected. These polticial leaders in their area where land has been taken away, may just say they wanted to help, but, were themselves helpless people. They were helpless because land matters is in the hand of one person, that is, the Chief Minister, whom most of the present YBs are afraid to get near and to talk with for fear that they may irk the "old man". If the "old man" may not be happy, this can put their political career on line and they may be dropped from the next state election of which is at the moment is around the corner. When a person is helpless, how can he help others?
In the end, these dayaks when they have no more land in search of their livelihood, will have no choice, but, to leave their homes and became squatters in the town and cities in the state. They will not be able to compete as most may not have the living skills to compete with people in towns and cities. They may become more frustrated with life and in order to drown their hardships and sorrows, they may just began to spend whatever ever money they have in “Cap langkau” and got drunk!

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