Sabah BN forced to return NCR land

By Michael Kaung, FMT

MARUDU: A protracted native customary rights (NCR) land dispute between a private company and 1,000 villagers from 48 kampungs has finally been resolved.

The natives have waited almost 14 years for a solution to their battle to wrest back thousands of acres of land from Safoda and Begaraya Sdn Bhd.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Maximus Ongkili, who is also the district MP, said each family will receive 20 acres of land.

The state Barisan Nasional (BN) government, after suffering a series of humiliating defeats in the courts over native title rights, had decided to grant each family 20 acres of land in what is seen as a “win-win solution” to the longstanding issue.

Ongkili said the issue had finally been resolved with the agreement of the Land Office and Safoda and Begaraya.

“The decision made in a meeting on Monday is a win-win situation for all parties.

“The state government has agreed to give each of the 1,000-odd affected families 20 acres of land comprising 15 acres of communal titled land and five acres of land declared as village reserve land,” he said when opening a briefing on the cultivation of cocoa, rubber and pepper for 300 Kota Marudu folk at the Dewan Komuniti here yesterday.

Safoda had applied for 4,793.9ha in the Kota Marudu district which were disputed by the people of 18 villages who claimed customary rights to the land.

Begaraya had been approved 40,000ha in Kota Marudu in 1997, in which 30 villages had made overlapping claims.

Issue resolved

Ongkili said the perimeter survey for the communal titles would begin next month and he hoped that by December two village communal titles would be issued.

“With the land titles, villagers are protected of their right to their native customary land including from being invaded by companies.

“The villagers can also start developing their land including in partnership with the land developers,” he said.

Ongkili also thanked the state government and Land Office for resolving the problem which had caused unhappiness among the villagers.

He, together with Tandek assemblywoman Anita Baranting and Matunggong assemblyman Sarapin Magana, had been making great efforts to negotiate a solution that would protect the people’s rights and welfare in the matter.

Both the state seats of Tandek and Matunggong come under the Kota Marudu parliamentary constituency.