On the Sarawak Land Code Ammendment

The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) stands in solidarity with the Malay and Indigenous Dayak peoples of Sarawak, Malaysia in defending their customary rights to their territorial domain and communal forest reserve, referred to as pemakai menoa and pulau galau, respectively, in the Dayak Iban language. The concluded amendment to the Sarawak Land Code limits these territorial domains to only 1,000 hectares per community but to be declared under “usufructuary right” only, or the right to use but not to own. The exploitation of such rights has been done more than 30 years ago and has only deteriorated from bad to worse.

On July 14, 2018, hundreds of Indigenous Peoples (IP) protested in Bintulu town, Sarawak to reject the land code that erodes their rights over ancestral lands, by putting absolute power to demarcate land use and ownership to the State Land and Survey director of the government. This jeopardizes the entire culture, life, and right to self-determination of IP as the land code only provides a piecemeal portion from the customary territory the IP have been developing since time immemorial. Instead of promoting cooperation and involvement of the Dayak, the state railroaded the amendments without any IP representative.

Historically, the global IP situation depicts the systemic failure of state laws in upholding IP rights. More so, these state laws and policies are continuously used by the governments and private sector to dispossess IP of their ancestral lands and territories. In Brazil, the Proposal of the Constitutional Amendment 215 (PEC 215) transfers the power to demarcate indigenous Guarani homeland forest and plains to the government’s legislative body which is drooling to give the green light to large-scale extractive and energy projects, agri-business, and infrastructures within the IP territories. In Peru, the Lima Act of 2015 and Legislative Decree No. 22175 requires several IP groups like Quecha poeples and Shipibo-Konibo peoples to crawl through bureaucratic hurdles of state lands and forest assessment, to apply for titles, and to gain only leasehold access and not full rights to indigenous lands.

The Indigenous People’s Rights Protection bill (PPHMA) in Indonesia was signed giving 13,000 out of the 8.2 million hectares of ancestral lands to indigenous communities. But the Indonesian government continuously circumvents and delays this promise, while indigenous communities face criminalization and persecution when their living space overlaps with protected areas or private concessions. Also, the promise of India’s Forest Right Act of 2006 is to award ancestral forest and land titles to indigenous communities, yet it remained hollow as IP defenders get killed after protesting against the government’s plan to expropriate their forests and lands in favor of industrial expansion and commercial land use.

Aside from land laws and policies that continue to dispossess the IP, government sponsored policies masked in counter-insurgency programs justifies militarization of IP communities where investments and corporate mining, energy and economic interests is suspiciously linked.

Ancestral lands cradle the life and culture of the indigenous peoples; it the basis of their livelihood and resources for ages. Therefore, implementation of universal declaration of IP rights over their territories must be upheld in the highest standards, and their contributions to nation-building and global development must be recognized. The solidarity of IP movements and resistance marks a decisive stride against state-sponsored oppression through disenfranchising laws and deceiving policies that only paves way for imperialist plunder of ancestral domains. We call on the international support, organizations, and IP rights defenders to stand together to unite and struggle for the protection of IP lands and territories!



Reference: Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator | info@ipmsdl.org