PKR to focus on native land rights in upcoming Sarawak election

By Shannon Teoh, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — Aiming to draw support from Sarawak’s many indigenous groups, PKR will place native land rights at the top of its agenda when it goes on the stump in the upcoming state elections.

PKR will call for owners of native customary rights (NCR) land to be allowed to take a more active part in economic activities on their land, said the party’s newly-appointed vice-president Datuk John Tenewi Nuek, a Bidayuh.

“The state government indiscriminately earmarks NCR land for cronies but the natives don’t even notice until the bulldozers come in,” said Nuek, who will oversee both Sabah and Sarawak for the opposition party.

It is believed that Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud will dissolve the state assembly on Monday.

Although DAP has a significant foothold with Chinese in the four urban centres — Kuching, Sibu, Miri and Bintulu — where it has two MPs and six assemblymen, opposition parties in Sarawak have not been able to make any headway into the native Melanau, Iban and Bidayuh communities.

However, the recent appointment of prominent Bidayuh Nuek, a former Malaysian ambassador to Myanmar and Venezuela, as vice president is regarded as a coup for PKR.

It is the party’s hope that along with state chief Baru Bian, a prominent NCR lawyer, PKR will be able to capitalise on growing discontent about the issue.

Nuek is highly respected by the Bidayuhs due to his 33 years of service for the foreign ministry and PKR hopes his presence will be influential in the six Bidayuh-majority seats.

Abdul Taib has been accused of alienating NCR land and handing it over to companies linked to him, his family and his associates with Nuek claiming around 200 cases dating back to the 1990s still pending in court.