mark march of Progress… Natives lose 260 square miles of land to a hydro electric dam - that’s a reservoir roughly about the size of NYC’s land area. The article, which is worth a close read, notes that 100s of other land use rights cases may be thrown out as a result. Borneo is the third largest island in the world, and is rich in natural resources and rare plant and animal species. Its population and economy are growing quickly, and development pressures government to respond.
Interestingly, people do not have strong property rights in Indonesia. I found that the Malaysian Constitution is an amalgamation of English-colonial “common law, written law, syariah law and customary laws with the Federation Constitution as the supreme law of the land.” This means the law can be interpreted in countless ways - sometimes precedent prevails, sometimes modern interpretation of Muslim shariah prevails, etc. It’s a big mess.
Members of an indigenous tribe in Borneo lost a case in Malaysia’s top court Thursday challenging the state’s seizure of land to build a massive dam.
The verdict capped a decade-long legal struggle by a group of villagers who claim authorities in Malaysia’s eastern Sarawak state unlawfully wrested away land occupied by their ancestors for generations.
If you’re into it, the BBC covered this issue back in 1999. See, “Who owns Indonesia?” Pertinent quote,
LAND USE RIGHTS
Under Indonesia’s constitution, all land is owned by the state, ignoring traditional land rights.
Suharto enforced this law ruthlessly, as companies connected to his family and friends exploited resources like timber, gold and oil.