Land policy with native rights in mind needed

By Michael Kaung, Free Malaysia Today

KOTA KINABALU:  The absence of a land policy in Sabah has contributed to the loss of property rights for the indigenous people in Sabah, according to Sabah PKR.

Kong Hong Ming, a presidential council member, said indiscriminate alienation of state land and the takeover of native customary rights (NCR) lands have caused untold hardship to thousands.

“Sabah has never had a land policy. It is time to have one on management of land resources. It must be managed by the state to serve the basic needs of every man and woman who are lawfully citizens of the state, instead of electively feeding the greed of a few,” he said.

Referring to the criminal prosecution by Sabah Forestry Department of six farmers who were found guilty by the Tenom magistrate’s court on Nov 12 last year for ‘trespassin’ into the Kuala Tomani forest reserve to plant hill paddy, he said such a situation should never arise to indigenous people.

“Indigenous people in Sabah are being unjustly deprived of their customary land rights and in the process made poorer and eventually made landless.

“After 47 years of  independence and since September 16, 1963,  the law is without order and justice is far insofar as enforcement and respect for fundamental and human rights are concerned.

“The indigenous people are no longer free to enter state land or allowed to take jungle produce which was practiced since time immemorial, before the existence of any form of governmental administration.

“Today genuine natives of Sabah find themselves to be the oppressed groups under BN rule in terms of their right to property and livelihood from their ancestral lands,” Kong said.

Massive alienation of land

Kong, who also heads PKR Tawau,  said complaints of land grabs and encroachments and destruction of ancestral and customary land are now common events.

He said Suhakam had also expressed concern that the highest numbers of complaints amounting to 977 cases were received from Sabah, compared to 251 cases in Sarawak and 654  in Peninsular Malaysia between 2005 to 2010.

“Today, the natives of Sabah have to compete for land ownership with the powerful and politically connected corporations, and have often become victims of acquisition of state land by government agencies.

“The include SAFODA, SLDB, Lembaga Industri Getah Sabah and other GLCs and corporations that are eyeing land resources and joint ventures with private companies under the guise of public purpose and development.

“Many natives who have applied for five to 15 acres of land 30 years ago are still waiting for the titles to the land that they have occupied and cultivated for generations.

“For many of them, they are waiting in vain, as the land that they have occupied and cultivated had already been given to big corporations,” he said.