Revisiting British Malaya's Era: An Intriguing Historical Legal Analysis of Land Administration and Colonial Forestry

  •  Md Damiri M. D.    
  •  Pakhriazad H. Z.    
  •  Paiman B.    
  •  Mohd Hasmadi I.    


The land and forest administration system in Malaysia faces a complexity bias due to the misinterpretation of rules and legislation, leading to increased disputes. The reliance on British law for matters like land ownership amplifies this issue, and the intricacies of static and dynamic arrangements further compound the complexity. Previously, Malay rural land rights were based on usufructuary principles, but the colonial land alienation policy redefined unalienated land, land reserved for public purposes, and reserved forests as State Land. This study seeks to comprehensively review and analyse legal rules, cases, statutes, and regulations to understand ancient land law practices and the influence of British colonial land law on land administration. Conducted in Peninsular Malaysia, the study focuses on primary documents, cases, and critical analyses from three states: Perak, Penang, and Kelantan. The findings of the study highlight the contentious nature of land rights and autonomy in utilizing natural resources in Malaysia. The country inherits both formal and informal land tenure systems rooted in customary law, making dispute resolution challenging. The principal characteristic of ancient land law is based on a hypothetical model of the ancient customary land tenure system, encompassing different eras, missions, and principles. Significantly, the study reveals a direct and strong connection between colonial land law and current land law practices in the respective states. Additionally, Malaysia's land law has been influenced by Islamic law (Syariah) to some extent and blended with other ancient customary laws before the introduction of Torren in 1897.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.