Oct 09, 2013 by Ng Ai Fern

KUCHING (Oct 9): Some 22 Iban landowners emerged victorious after the Court of Appeal overturned a lower court\’s decision and affirmed their native customary rights over 3,000 acres of land in Niah.

Appeal judges Datuk Abdul Wahad Patail, Datuk Wira Mohtarudin Baki and Datuk Mah Weng Kwai on Tuesday ruled in favour of the plaintiffs from Rumah Meringai, Sungei Lembong Suai in Miri, Sarawak, with costs and damages.

The landowners had filed two cases; the first against Fung Tai Sdn Bhd, Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA), Miri Superintendent of Lands & Surveys and the Sarawak state government over the matter.

The Ibans claimed the Quarry Licence was issued to Fung Tai Sdn Bhd and/or LCDA without their consent.

And the second, Butrasemari Sdn Bhd, Miri Superintendent of Lands and Surveys and the Sarawak government were named respondents over two Provisional Leases issued to Butrasemari by the Miri Superintendent.

The appellate court judges further ruled that the issuance of the Quarry Licence and two Provisional Leases were “unlawful, improper, unconstitutional and therefore null and void”.

In July 2011, High Court judge Datuk Abdul Rahman Sebli struck off two cases brought by the 22 Iban landowners, on grounds that the area claimed were not cleared or farmed before 1958, thus making no basis for the NCR claim.

Dissatisfied with that decision, the Plaintiffs appealed.

In allowing their appeal, the Appeal Court judges unanimously agreed that the Ibans, on the balance of probabilities, proved their claims of pemakai menua (communal land) and/or pulau galau (communal forest reserve) over their NCR land comprising about 3,475 hectares.

The landowners’ lawyer Baru Bian said this was the fifth judgement from the Court of Appeal confirming in their ruling that pemakai menoa and pulau galau were native customary land under the Iban adat or customs in Sarawak.

“It is interesting to note that for the first time in NCR cases emanating from Sarawak, the court declared that the issuance of the Quarry Licence and the Provisional Leases without first extinguishing NCR, was a breach of the government’s fiduciary duty to the plaintiffs or appellants,” Baru said in a press statement.

Source:  FZ : Malaysia News – General, Political, National, Business, World.