Exploring Native Land Rights in Sabah


Harry Jonas and Holly Shrumm (Natural Justice) attended a symposium entitled “Sabah Native Land Rights: Issues, Challenges and the Way Forward”. Chaired by Dr. Jacqueline Pugh-Kitingan (UMS Kadazandusun Chair), it was hosted by the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) School of Social Sciences from 30-31 January in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. The opening keynote was delivered by YAA Tan Sri Richard Malanjum (Chief Justice, High Court of Malaysia). Highlights of the paper presentations included:

  • Overview of Native Customary Land Laws in Malaysia (Dr. Ramy Bulan, Centre for Legal Pluralism and Indigenous Law, University of Malaya)
  • Governance of Customary Land and Natural Resources in Sabah (Datuk Osman Jamal, Director, Sabah Lands and Surveys Department)
  • Land Rights, Native Rights, and Human Rights (Tan Sri Simon Sipuan, Former Vice Chairman, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia)
  • Selection of Village Headmen in Sabah (Dr. Paul Porodong and Dr. Gaim Lunkapis, UMS)

As in many former British colonies, the legal landscape in Sabah consists of a mosaic of statutory, common, and customary law. Drawing on a burgeoning global jurisprudence in support of Indigenous peoples’ rights, many presenters called for greater legal pluralism, effective reform of decades-old legislations, and a national tribunal to address violations and the backlog of an estimated 300 000 native title applications.

31 January 2012


Governance of Lands and Natural Resources

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