The Sarawak state government has found fault with two landmark High Court judgments that upheld native rights towards their customary land – and says it will appeal.
Borneo Post report on 4 Feb 2010
In both cases – Agi Ak Bungkong & Others v Ladang Sawit Bintulu Sdn Bhd and Mohd Rambli Kawi v Superintendent of Lands & Surveys Kuching Division and Another – Justice Datuk David Wong had ruled on 21 January that the respective communities had proven that they have native customary rights over the disputed land. He awarded them damages and costs.
The Sarawak state government’s decision to appeal was not unexpected. But what raised eye-brows was the language the government used in a press statement announcing its decision.
Have a look:
Full text of the Sarawak Government’s press statement:
The State Government has decided to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the Judgments of the High Court delivered last week, in the cases of Agi anak Bungkong and Others v Ladang Sawit Bintulu Sdn Bhd and 4 Others, and Mohd Rambli Kawi v Superintendent of Lands & Surveys, Kuching and Government of Sarawak. Application for stay of execution and further proceedings of the Judgments had also been made.
The Government finds that these 2 Judgments did not follow well established precedents and the customs declared by those precedents and the customs declared by those precedents and the wrong application of Article 153 (on reservation of quotas in respect of services, permits, etc. for Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak). The High Court has, in an earlier case held that Article 153, in its plain language, has no application to land or land rights. The State Government feels that these Judgments ought to be critically reviewed by the Appellate Courts.
The Government will continue with its mandate from the people to develop the State and implement its development plans and strategies in accordance with the provisions of the Land Code and other relevant laws in order to bring about a better future for the rural population. The Government has always recognized native customary rights based upon the written law or customs having the force of law. Its policy remains that of preventing natives being impoverished through the sale of their land or to enable others to buy vast tracts of untitled native land which could leave the natives selling such land to become totally landless.
How will the courts react to this?
A judge is expected to hear the state government’s application for a stay of execution and further proceedings on the Agi Anak Bungkong case early this week.