Monday, October 6, 2014

Intervene Soonest and Implement Land Reforms - Dr. Jeffrey

Kota Kinabalu:  “The Sabah government need to intervene in land disputes involving all native customary rights and at the same time carry out land reforms to make land administration particularly land alienation, fair, transparent and with integrity” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, STAR Sabah Chief cum Bingkor Assemblyman, in asking the Sabah government to intervene soonest and resolve the on-going land dispute and stand-off in Kg. Malinsau, Wayan and Sinurai, Ulu Sugut, Ranau.

While it is lauded that the elected representatives from Ranau and Kundasang and the Director of Lands and Surveys have met and come out with statements, the land dispute is still unresolved.

The land dispute also needs to be seen from the right perspective.   If the villagers/native inhabitants did not form a human barricade with the aid of volunteers of SSPR, an NGO from Ranau, the disputed land would have been totally cleared and destroyed by now.

Moreover, according to the native villagers, there were no ground surveys and no boundary markers in the disputed land as alleged by the authorities that a proper survey was done.  

Even then, it did not stop the cutting down of about 300 rubber trees by the intruding mob with more than 100 foreigners and watched by the police with their vehicles and black Maria lorries ready to arrest and cart away the native villagers.   It was not just a case of clearing land for their proposed site office as allegedly reported.

Luckily, there were no untoward incidents and eventually good sense prevailed and the destruction was stopped pending further negotiations.  Hopefully, a final resolution can be achieved with the native villagers getting to keep their lands and rubber trees that are not destroyed.

To resolve this land mess in Ulu Sugut, Ranau, and in many similar cases, the government must intervene to resolve the land dispute and it is hoped that the government will do so for the rights and welfare of the native villagers.

At the same time, the Sabah government need to implement land reforms which should include:-
(a) respecting and acknowledging native land rights by establishing clear-cut provisions for safeguarding of NCR and other land rights;
(b)   mandatory provisions for ground survey/inspection and inquiry before land applications are considered;
(c) establishing of a Land Tribunal and if possible a Land and NCR Commission and a Native Land Foundation;
(d)   making provisions for court proceedings to be allowed to challenge disputable decisions of the Director of Lands and Surveys and Collector of Land Revenue as they are not above the law;
(e) widen the scope of land use of Native Titles so that the natives get better valuations on their lands and for development without sacrificing native lands to be converted to country leases.

“I hope to propose some suggestions at the next DUN sitting in November, 2014 and hope that land administration to safeguard native customary rights can be further strengthened” added Dr. Jeffrey.

Meantime, the relevant departments should assess the damage and loss of income of the native villagers arising from the destruction of the 300 or so rubber trees and provide monetary aid which could be an estimated RM2,000.00 – RM3,000.00 monthly loss of income.   The villagers would be needing this income to cover their daily family expenses.

Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan
Chairman Borneo Heritage Foundation (BHF)
04 October 2014


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