KOTA MARUDU – Sabah Forest Development Authority (SAFODA) has been instructed to suspend all land clearing and development projects here until issues related to customary land claims are settled.
The Member of Parliament, Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said the decision was made to avoid untoward incidents by angry landowners who may choose to take law into their own hands.
Speaking after chairing a meeting with SAFODA officials and village chiefs at the Kota Marudu Municipal Council office, he said agencies allocated with land by the government must respect Native Customary Rights (NCR) land claims and ownerships to ensure rural people’s rights and assets are not simply disposed off.
“Protection for NCR as provided in the State Land Ordinance must be upheld and adhere by others to avoid tension and uprising from rural communities as land is a sensitive matter,” he said in a statement Friday.
The Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister was referring to claims by Kampung Sungoi Darat, Sungoi Laut and surrounding villagers that SAFODA had trespassed into their customary lands planted with rubber trees and oil palm to be cleared for tree plantation.
It was learnt that villagers have blocked access to areas until land boundaries are sorted out and a group of some 100 people thronged the District Council office here Friday to voice out their grouses to the relevant authorities.
Ongkili, who also co-chair the joint Chairman of Technical Committee of the Cabinet Committee on Sabah and Sarawak Bumiputera Minorities, noted that speedy issuance of land titles is necessary to solve problems caused by infringement by large companies and government corporations on customary lands owned by natives.
“To facilitate this issuance of communal titles is a key short cut to ensure immediate land ownership by native communities. Subdivision for individual owners be carried out later.
“Both Kampung Sungoi Darat, Sungoi Laut and surrounding villages have agreed to use communal titles to secure their native land ownership,” he said.
Ongkili said he will be discussing the matter with the director of Land and Survey Department to include the various villages overlapped by SAFODA land application to be surveyed under the communal title programme.
Under the Technical Committee, he said they, among others, channel Federal grants for surveying of customary lands, besides implementing of Lands Administration Section for Anak Negeri Sabah (PANTAS) programmes.
Also present was the Assistant Community, Development and Consumers Affairs Minister Datuk Anita Baranting who is also the Tandek Assemblywoman.