03-7967-6503 / 6504 law@um.edu.my

WEBINAR: Reflections on Director of Forest, Sarawak v TR Sandah ak Tabau

Home / News


Reflections on Director of Forest, Sarawak v TR Sandah ak Tabau:  Custom and Usage Having the Force of Law and NCR.

14th October 2020,   15.00 – 16.30 hrs.
Slides and link to Recording are at bottom of this page.

Brought to you by


Download the Brochure:  JPG format   PDF format

About the Webinar:

In the case of Director of Forest v TR Sandah & Ors [2017] 2 MLJ 281 (“TR Sandah)”, the Federal Court considered  a claim for native customary rights (NCR) pursuant to the native custom of  pemakai menoa and pulau galau. The Iban plaintiffs claimed NCR in an uncultivated forest lands in Sarawak, upon which their established custom have purportedly given them a collective customary tenure and beneficial territorial right. The majority decision did not question the existence and validity of that custom but held that it did not have “force of law” under Art 160 (2) the Federal Constitution. This caused an uproar among the native communities, who viewed it as “the nail in the coffin” to stultify  the long struggle to get just  recognition of native rights to their ancestral and heritage lands. 

The case raised pertinent issues of substantive and procedural law, constitutional and statutory intepretation, NCR at common law, questions about the interface of indigenous knowledge and legislation, and custom and usage as a source of law.  Has the majority rightly interpreted the law? In a review of the case the issue of  absence judges’ with “Borneo experience” was raised. Is this important and why? This webinar brings together legal distinguished experts to discuss  issues around  NCR and customs as source of law against the backdrop of international indigenous jurisprudence. In an attempt to address the problem and placate the native community, the state government’s  response was to amend the Sarawak Land Code Cap.81 in 2018, however the  uncertainties on customary land tenure interests remains. What legal or institutional mechanisms or reforms could be the way forward to deal with this problem?



Tan Sri Dato Seri Panglima Richard Malanjum, Former Federal Court Judge and Chief Justice of Malaysia.


Dato’ Dr. Gurdial Singh Nijar,  Former Law Professor, University of Malaya,  he now practises law and is President of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM).


Dr Yogeswaran Subramaniam,  Advocate and Solicitor. He specialises in indigenous land rights with particular focus on Orang Asli. He has appeared in a number of significant cases and was one of the legal counsels in the appeal and review of TR Sandah.


Dr Ramy Bulan, Research Fellow, Director, Centre For Legal Pluralism and Indigenous Law, Faculty of Law, University of Malaya.

Event Slides:

1. Introduction Slides by Dr Ramy Bulan [click here to download]

2. Native Customary Rights by Tan Sri Dato Seri Panglima Richard Malanjum [click here to download]

3. Common Law and its principles by Dr Yogeswaran Subramaniam [click here to download]

Dato’ Dr. Gurdial Singh Nijar did not present any slides.

4. Click Here to view the event Recorded in facebook

Last Updated: 05/10/2020