WE, the representatives and participants numbering more than 2,000 people from different Dayak longhouse communities throughout Sarawak together with Indigenous Peoples Organisations (IPOs), Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the representatives of international groups gathered and participated in the Celebration of Gawai Kelingkang: Nerabai Menoa 1999 - with the theme "Advance Community Commitment in the Struggles for Customary Land Rights", held at Rumah Lipu, Sungai Bawang, Balingian, Mukah District, Sibu Division, Sarawak on the 21st November 1999.

We have voiced our concerns on various issues and problems, which we have identified and are currently facing as follows:

  1. Customary Land is our life and blood. It is exclusively ours and the only ancestral property and heritage, which was passed down to our community by virtue of our "Adat" by our ancestors. The problems that we currently face now are the land alienation, acquisition and extinguishment of our native customary land rights by the Government of Sarawak to the private companies and/or State agencies for infrastructure projects, extractive development activities and large-scale plantation schemes;
  2. Native customary lands of the Dayak communities throughout Sarawak are targeted for various commercial land development programmes by the State Government, which arbitrarily issued licences, grants and/or provisional leases to the elite, politicians, government agencies and private companies that affect our native customary lands without our knowledge and consent;
  3. Our native customary lands are indiscriminately opened up under the "New Concept" of Native Customary Land Development Programme for the implementation of large scale commercial plantations by the State agencies such as LCDA (Land Custody Development Authority), SLDB (Sarawak Land Development Board), SALCRA (Sarawak Land Custody Rehabilitation Authority) and STIDC (Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation) together with private companies and foreign investors without the informed consent and agreement from our communities.
  4. The "New Concept" of native customary land development programme is a systematic process of land alienation and extinguishment of native customary land rights of the Dayak communities. We condemn and oppose this type of development programme, which only protect the interests and benefits of few individual elite, capitalists, foreign investors and private companies to acquire and own large tracts of land as well as exploiting the wealth and natural resources within our native customary lands.
  5. Hundreds of thousands hectares of native customary land owned by the Dayak longhouse community in the Bintulu-Balingian region are threatened due to the establishment of massive acacia plantation by Borneo Pulp and Paper Plantation Sdn. Bhd. and are threatening the livelihood and land rights of the Dayaks in that area;
  6. Logging which is still operating at a ferocious rate throughout Sarawak especially within native customary land areas contributed to lot of problems and hardships to the Dayak communities that depended on the forest resources for their daily survival. Logging activities has destroyed our community forest reserves and the resources for our daily needs as well as had caused alarming depletion of wildlife and pollution to the environment;
  7. In the name of "development" - our people were displaced; our property were indiscriminately destroyed; our forests are logged; our native customary land rights were extinguished and our lands were acquired for the implementation of mega-infrastructure projects, plantations and other development activities. These development activities that occurred within the Dayak communities areas did not bring progress nor benefit us but instead brings various problems and sufferings to the communities as well as destroying our way of life and environment; and
  8. The community initiative in determining and implementing their own development programme and conservation project in managing the land, forest and resources in a sustainable basis that could uplift our socio-economic status and self-sufficiency have got no protection or support from the Government due to other vested interests. Thus, the Government simply issued licences/leases to the elite, politicians, private companies and/or state agencies for profit oriented interests by exploiting land, forest and natural resources within our customary land territories without the consent of our communities.


WITH THIS, we declare our statements as follow:

  1. Call the State Government of Sarawak to solve the problems of native customary lands by surveying and demarcating the ancestral territorial boundaries ("sempadan") of the Dayak communities and that boundary records and documents should be furnished to the respective community with copies of such documents to be given and kept by the relevant Government Departments for future references;
  2. Call the Federal Government of Malaysia and the Sarawak Governments or their agencies, private companies and foreign investors to hold open negotiations and consultations with our communities prior to the implementation of any development projects, which involves our native customary land and the surroundings. Our views and opinions whether we support or reject such development projects should be respected and honoured;
  3. Reiterate our calls to the Governments to resolve ongoing disputes and problems with the timber companies that are carrying logging operations within our native customary lands because these operations threatens our customary rights to land, forest and resources as well as had caused suffering to the lives of the Dayak community;
  4. Once again, we demand the Sarawak State’s Government to freeze and withdrawn any timber licences that were issued over native customary lands and that all logging activities should be stopped immediately within disputed native customary land areas until resolutions are reached and mutually agreed between all parties;

  5. Raise awareness and realisation to the Government that the Development Programmes and Projects, which were planned and implemented throughout Sarawak, are environmentally destructive and therefore can cause widespread calamities to the whole population, especially the Dayak communities in the rural areas;
  6. Inform the Government that our communities oppose the large-scale plantation schemes and mega infrastructure projects within native customary land areas and the destruction of our forest, biological resources and environment as a result of extractive industries. We reject any conservation development programmes within our "menoa" or ancestral territory that attempt to acquire and threaten our customary land and rights. Our customary land should be totally excluded from this type of massive destructive development programmes and activities;
  7. Urge the Government to provide all information and reports on any research studies undertaken pertaining to any development projects that would be implemented within our "menoa" to be furnished to us for our scrutiny before hand so as to ascertain that our rights and interests are not threaten. Also reports on activity and progress of any development programme that were/are being implemented within our native customary land should be shown to us as well;
  8. Urge the Government of Sarawak to stop the implementation of the New Concept that involves native customary land because this New Concept proves to be a major threat to our native customary rights to land, forest, biological resources and clean environment;
  9. Urge the Government of Malaysia to shelve any large-scale infrastructure projects that uproots indigenous communities of their ancestral lands and that the deferred Bakun Hydro-electric Power Dam Project be completely cancelled;
  10. Urge the Federal and State Governments to suspend and stop the plan to establish any disastrous and highly pollutant industrial projects that threatens the livelihood of local community and the environment such as the Aluminium Smelting Plant and the Pulp & Paper Mill Factory in Bintulu;
  11. Appeal to the Security forces and Police to act professionally and justifiably in their duties. Any cases of human rights abuses, encroachment and destruction of customary land, forest and resources, which we report to the Police, must be investigated and appropriate action be taken to those who are responsible for it. The authorities must respect the actions taken by the Dayak communities in protecting and defending their native customary rights to land, properties, forest and resources from being encroached, trespassed and destroyed by the private companies, development agencies and/or any other parties;
  12. We urge the authorities to recognise our fundamental human rights as natives and the police must desist from making arbitrary arrests and wrongful detention to our communities; and

  13. Request the Governments to support, promote and recognise community self-determination in planning, developing and managing their own sustainable development programme, which could upgrade the socio-economic and living standard of the community without threatening and destroying the land, forest, natural biological resources, the environment and the surroundings.


THEREFORE, in one voice we raise our hands and acclaims to collectively agree and support this declaration.

Dated this 21st Day of November 1999.