Former Superintendent of L&S Dept. Miri first witness to be called
MIRI, 27.11.2000 - The former Superintendent of Lands and Surveys (L&S) Department, Miri Division, Charles Arthur Bateman was the first out of the 76 witnesses to be called to the stand to testify on the Ulu Niah multiple murder trial.
When cross-examined by defence counsel Tai Choi Yu, representing Mawat Ak Sait (22), the second of the 19 accused on trial, Charles testified that he cannot recall issuing the Provisional Lease (PL) for Lot 75 Sawai Land District, Lamaus Estate at Ulu Niah, Miri Division, Sarawak to Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad (SOP) during his tenure as Superintendent of L&S Department, Miri Division from 1992 to 1998.
He explained that a PL can only be issued if a cadastral survey is not possible yet. Upon issuance of a PL, the lease holder is not entitle to a full lease yet until a complete cadastral survey is done and he is satisfied with it.
Charles disclosed that there are some cases where an application for a PL can be referred to the Kuching office and it would only be referred to Miri office for him to make recommendations.
When question by defence counsel, Tai Choi Yu if the PL went back to him for recommendations, Charles said that he could not recall. The witness said that it has been a long time therefore he could not recall, prompting the third defence counsel, M.S. Sandhu to charge his statements as unacceptable.
Defence counsel Tai Choi Yu continued asking him if he is familiar with the two longhouses, Rumah Busang and Rumah Bali that are affected by the PL. Charles answered no. When asked again if he is familiar with Sawai Land District, he also answered no.
Charles explained that in the case of PL, the L&S Department does not go to the ground but their information is based on office records. This means that there is no study on the ground.
He also explained that Native Customary Rights (NCR) land can be excluded from the PL. If a legal longhouse is to be found within the leased area, it also can be excluded.
Tai then asked him who determines whether the longhouse is legal. Charles explained that initially the lease holder determines whether the longhouse is legal. If difficulty arises the lease holder can make references to the L&S Department or the District Office. He continued that the L&S Department officers would only go to the ground to carry out a detailed investigation if there is difficulty.
The third defence counsel, M.S. Sandhu apparently unsatisfied with Charles inability to recall on the issuance of the PL to SOP requested that the witness furnished the dossier on Lot 75 Sawai Land District.
The 19 accused including a juvenile are longhouse residents of Rumah Busang and Rumah Bali. They are charge under section 149 of the Penal Code punishable under section 302 of the same code for allegedly having jointly as members of an unlawful assembly caused the death of Liaw Teck Kong (39), Tiong Ing Seng (26), Ling Chien Fung (29) and Wong Kok Seng (25) at Lot 75 Sawai Land District, Lamaus Estate in Ulu Niah, Miri, Sarawak at 4 pm on 1st September 1999.
All the 19 accused pleaded not guilty to the charges. - BRIMAS
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