The Federal Court has fixed 28 April 2011 to hear a full appeal on a couple of cases involving native customary rights to land that could have far-reaching implications.
The main issue before the court: is Section 5 (3) and (4) (on the land acquisition procedure) of the Sarawak Land Code ultra vires Article 5 read together with Article 13 (on the right to life and right to property) of the Federal Constitution?
This is a representative action brought by Bato Bagi and six other plaintiffs representing five longhouses in Ulu Balui, Belaga District, Kapit Division Sarawak that are affected by the Bakun Dam. Their claim is against the State Government of Sarawak for the extinguishment of their native customary rights (NCR) on lands along the Balui river and its tributaries (the said lands) for the purpose of the construction of Bakun Hydro-Electric Dam (Bakun Dam). The claimants are all from the native Dayak communities especially from the Kayan, Kenyah and Ukit ethnic groups.
A related appeal that will be heard together concerns Jalang ak Paran over the extinguishment of NCR on land for a “pulpwood mill site”. As a result of this extinguishment, a civil suit was filed in the High Court in Kuching in 1999. The plaintiffs in this case share similar concerns regarding NCR with the Bato Bagi case.
Acting for the natives are lawyers Sulaiman Abdullah and Baru Bian.