KUCHING: Are Sarawak Barisan Nasional leaders so naive that they dare to trivialize or consider as ‘old issues’ the native customary rights (NCR) which include land-grabs by the state government, the issuing of provisional leases and the illegal encroachment?
Well, it’s either naivety or over-confidence that led BN officials to recently warn the opposition here not to harp on the NCR issues in the coming general election as they did in last April state poll.
Slamming Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) official William Limong recently, state PKR chief Baru Bian said: “I leave it to the final judgment of the people.
“NCR land issues that are unresolved and continue to plague the people are not considered old issues.
“It is precisely because this is an aggravating and ongoing issue that Suhakam is currently conducting a public hearing for the national inquiry into the land rights of indigenous people.”
Bian advised BN leaders not to shoot-off-their mouths and instead to take some efforts to study the judgments of the courts for their definition of NCR land.
“And if that little exercise has not totally worn them out, they can find out how the Lands and Surveys Department and other relevant government bodies choose to apply their own limited definition in their dealings with the people.”
Bian, a lawyer, who has represented NCR landowners in scores of such cases, was responding to Limong’s allegations that the opposition parties were misleading the Orang Ulu community in Ulu Baram by harping on “old issues such as NCR land”.
Limong is clueless
Last Wednesday, Limong, who is with SPDP’s Telang Usan branch had advised the opposition against raising old NCR issues and using them as their weapon in the coming parliamentary election.
He also said that opposition should not use NGO, Sahabat Alam Malaysia’s name in their campaigns.
“This is because the Orang Ulu natives now know and understand that their rights are protected by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government which had been spending millions of ringgit to bring development projects to the rural areas.
“The people’s support for BN could be proven by the big losses PKR and SNAP suffered in Marudi and Telang Usan during the last state election,” Limong said.
Limong’s statement however drew flak from some quarters. Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) head of publication division, Ahi Sarok, felt the Limong was clueless of the facts.
Sarok said the Barisan candidate had almost lost in the state seat of Telang Usan in last April’s polls.
He said the assemblyman, Dennis Ngau, had polled slightly more than 30% of the votes cast.
“Had there been a two-cornered fight, the opposition could have won,” said Sarok.
He told Bernama that apart from SPDP’s internal crises, which had filtered to the grasrsoot, there was also “many other unresolved issues in Baram”.
“These include NCR land issues, logging and also development issues. The Lapok Road and the NCR land issues are always ever green issues which the opposition will harp on,” Sarok said.
SPDP is planning to field Jacob Sagan for the Baram parliamentary constituency.
Let people decide
But judging by the issues concerning the proposed Baram dam, which the Kayan, Kenyah and Penan communities strongly opposed, Sagan may have problems with the 13,623 voters in Telang Usan, which is part of the Baram constituency.
Meanwhile Bian felt that the natives were now more aware and were wary of ‘people who claim to care about them’.
“If they are happy with the current situation on NCR matters and truly believe that their rights are protected by the Barisan National (BN) government, then by all means let them vote for more of the same with the Barisan National politicians.
“On the other hand, if they believe that their rights are being trampled on, and that their lands and livelihood are being stolen by people who claim to care about them, then I trust that they will exercise their good judgment to vote for a Pakatan Rakyat government,” said Bian, who is also the Ba’Kelalan assemblyman.