Rumah Nor: A Land Rights Case for Malaysia

In their own words, one Iban Dayak community tells the story of their ten year struggle to protect traditional farms, orchards and primary forest reserves from industrial pulp plantations authorized by the Sarawak State government without due process of law or compensation.

This 27-minute film was a collaborative effort by The Borneo Project and the community of Rumah Nor, Sebauh, Sekabai, Bintulu, Sarawak, Malaysia over several months in 2006 and 2007. It was made possible with support from Threshold Foundation and Borneo Project members.


Bahasa Malaysia:

Film synopsis:

This film is an educational introduction to Nor Nyawai & Others vs. Borneo Pulp Plantation & Others. In that precedent-setting court case of 2001, the High Court decided that Rumah Nor did indeed have sufficient evidence to claim native customary rights over all of their traditional territory (“pemakai menoa”), including farms and fallows (“temuda”) and the “disputed area”, which had been their primary forest reserve (“pulau galau”) destroyed by Borneo Pulp Plantation, a subsidiary of Borneo Pulp & Paper and Asia Pulp & Paper.

In 2005, their victory was partially overturned in State Appeals Court due to “lack of evidence of occupation of the disputed area”. Confusingly, all their lands outside the disputed area were still considered by the court to be valid native customary rights lands.

In 2008, the federal court declined to hear the case, meaning these questions of native customary land rights continue to be decided arbitrarily, on a case by case basis. Though many High Court decisions since 2008 have chosen to uphold native land rights as defined in the Rumah Nor 2001 decision, hundreds of indigenous communities across Sarawak continue to face illegal land grabbing by government and corporations.