Bloody clashes looming over land grabs

The Sabah Land and Survey Department is yet to explain why it gave away a surveyed NCR land to a private company.

(Free Malaysia Today) – Rampant land grabs in Sabah are making folk in rural areas restive with visible indications of impending violent clashes between the “new” owners and natives.

Warning of possible bloodshed over these “illegal” land grabs, United Borneo Front (UBF) chairman Jeffrey Kitingan has urged Chief Minister Musa Aman to intervene immediately and prevent the issue from boiling over.

“I urge the chief minister to use his good office to intervene immediately before serious and bloody clashes erupt between the natives, who are defending their land rights, and employees of private companies, who are driving away the natives based on the company’s so-called ‘approval’ from the government,” he said yesterday.

According to Jeffrey, who is the brother of Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan, two such cases needed the immediate attention of the state government.

He said that one of the cases is in the Sukau area of Sandakan where at least two farmers’ homes have been demolished, which prompted the villagers to confront the authorities and prevent another house from being razed.

According to Jeffrey, an elected representative was seen in his car directing the demolition, saying: “‘Potong lah… apa lagi mau tunggu’” (cut down… what else are you waiting for?).

Land registered but no title

Declining to name the representative, he said the man quickly disappeared when more and more villagers started to arrive at the scene.

“I visited the area and was surprised to see houses among matured oil palm plantation and coconut trees in the disputed area.

“It had been fully planted and developed by the villagers who have occupied and applied for the land more than 20 years in 1989,” he told a news conference here.

The villagers claimed that they had even been supplied with fertiliser and seedlings by the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) government, which ruled from 1985 to 1994, when they opened up their land.

As in many similar cases, their land applications were registered but no titles were ever issued.

According to Jeffrey, a company was allowed to apply for the same area and given approval by the Land and Survey Department leading to the current dispute.

He said that the private company with its financial, manpower and material resources has the upper hand and is driving away the natives by destroying their homes and plantations and sometimes offering them money to leave.

The department has so far failed to satisfactorily answer why it had approved the land to the company when it had already been applied for and occupied by the villagers much earlier, he added.