Ongkili’s land grab expose leave opposition unimpressed

By Dominic Legeh, Free Malaysia Today

KOTA KINABALU: A federal minister’s exposure of an alleged land grab in Sabah by a plantation company has prompted immediate action to halt such controversial takeovers and encroachment in the state.

Kota Marudu MP Dr Maximus Ongkili, who is also the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, on Friday informed the state Land and Survey Department to explain how it had alienated native customary rights land in his constituency to a private company.

By Saturday the department had moved into action. Its director Osman Jamal confirmed that the company was developing land located in three villages in the district.

However, Osman said that the affected land located in the three villages covering some 1,760 acres was state land and approved to 88 applicants in June 1978 and subsequently the land divided into 22 pieces and titles issued

He said what transpired was that the landowners had sold the said land to the company concerned through a power of attorney and the company is now developing the land into an oil palm plantation.

The department director also claimed that a body called the land utility committee at a meeting in Kota Marudu last month had instructed the department to investigate the matter.

The department duly did so the same month and found that the company concerned had carried out clearing activities outside their area.

Ongkili, in exposing the takeover of the villagers’ land, had wanted the department to act following complaint against the company for encroaching into and bulldozing crops and trees planted by the villagers.

Ongkili, who visited the area covering Kampung Soniton Ulu, Kampung Lingkobungan 1 and Kampung Bombong 1 in Kota Marudu, said the native customary rights land had mature crops including rubber trees growing on it.

Ongkili said the land totaling some 1,768 acres has been cultivated for several years by about 150 families but they had suddenly found that it had been taken over by a company recently.

The company claims it has been given approval by the Lands and Survey Department for oil palm cultivation.