The government will never rob the people of their land as it is its duty to take care of the welfare of its citizens who have elected it.Thus, such question should not arise at all, Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas pointed out.
“That question should never be asked of us. This is because the state government is very serious in finding a holistic solution to the native customary rights (NCR) land issue regarding ‘pemakai menua’ and ‘pulau galau’ (PMPG),” Uggah told The Borneo Post in his office at the DUN complex yesterday.
He assured that the state government would address the issue holistically and not do it on an ad hoc basis, stressing that the government would not give in to pressure from some dissenting natives who were entangled in land disputes with the government, and had organised rallies both here and in Kuala Lumpur.
“The Chief Minister is making a very positive statement on PMPG. He said we recognise the PMPG. He had spelt it out and it has been reported widely in the newspapers. He also informed the public that we have formed a special committee to look after the issue holistically and to amend the Land Code so that some of these issues will be resolved.
“It has been on the table and we are working on it. Not only that, we also have group discussions, not only in Kuching, but also in Bintulu. And on top of that, we have been receiving feedbacks as well,” he said.
Besides that, he said he also had a meeting with state PKR chief Baru Bian a few weeks ago regarding the matter and the government welcomed his feedback.
“In fact he was also welcomed in the Bintulu discussion which was a discussion among a group of lawyers chaired by Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi. It is part of our consultation. And Majlis Adat Istiadat is our secretariat. It has been talking to our community leaders to find out what is the best definition and best approach to resolve the problem.
“This thing cannot be rushed. That’s the reason why we have to reject the Motion moved by YB Baru Bian recently because his proposal was incomplete and not holistic,” he pointed out.
Elaborating further, he said: “For example if you want to renovate your house, you got to have all the structures ready. You cannot just pull one or two ‘tiang’ (posts) and say let’s renovate the house. This is the reason why we didn’t support the (Baru’s) Motion, not that we are not helping the Dayaks. In fact, we are also sympathetic with them on this problem,” he reiterated.
Uggah also explained in detail why the Land Code could not be amended during the current DUN sitting.
“And whoever is accusing us of betraying them, they have not tried to understand what the government is doing. The government is different from NGOs and private individuals who can just pronounce on something and later not honouring it.
“CM has promised it and we are committed to do it. We have to do it and we have to do it properly. And what could be worse is that if there is something wrong, then we have to amend the land code again. That’s why we need to look at it holistically.
“What is presented on the table (now) is not considered as to be able to resolve the problem on the table. To us in the government, we are doing it. As I have said earlier, we cannot just rush and there has never been any time I commit to table it in November,” he said.
Meanwhile, Uggah, who is acting deputy president of PBB, believed that the majority of the natives are still with the government of the day as they understand and appreciate its efforts not only on land issues but also on overall development in the state.
“So looking at the last state election, the people supported us because they have seen what we have done and they are confident in us and what we can do in the future.
“I think on the same basis, I am confident that we will get the support from the people especially with the chief minister and his new vision of digital economy, various development programmes, fighting for Sarawak’s rights, etc. Those are the bigger issues which the people must also look at. So to me, I’m confident that they will support us,” he said.
Uggah’s message to the people is: “Be patient, give the government time. We are elected by you and it is our responsibility to find solution to as many problems as possible especially on land issues. That’s why we have development programmes, we have laws, we have systems, we have facilities because the bottom line is for the government to work out a programme on how to improve the livelihood of the people and make Sarawak a high income state by 2030.”