Caretaker Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal handed over the titles to villagers for 2,142 acres.
He said the villagers had waited for this for decades, adding this is in line with the state government’s plan since last year for Sabahans to have the right to their own plot of land.
Besides giving land titles to people, he said the government had also worked towards de-gazetting forest reserves which contained settlements statewide.
“This is not restricted to giving land but needs to go along with assistance for villagers to develop their land (for instance) through the state’s agriculture blueprint.”
Shafie said there were many settlements such as in Tongod, Ranau and Kota Marudu that were situated in forest reserves after previous administrations decided to classify the locations as protected forest areas.
As a consequence of this, their land applications had been rendered complicated.
“They have been on the land for decades but without land titles. And their applications took time until we de-gazetted the areas so they are no more forest reserves – so they will have ownership over the lands.
“The process (to approve applications) was delayed previously … some of the people had applied since such a long time such as in Semporna, 40 to 60 years.
“There were plans by certain quarters … I’m not trying to point fingers but this happened during Umno’s and PBS’ administrations as well.
“But thankfully, we have a clear approach and I had tabled in the state assembly sitting before that we want to de-gazette these reserves so villagers can have the right to the lands,” Shafie said.
“What’s the wrong in that? I have been giving the land titles for over a year now.
“As long as the election writ has not been issued, the caretaker government can still function to give (the land titles).
“If the writ is there then it’s a different story (so) I can still give assistance. This is not to buy votes.
“I know the law too, I have been a legislator for decades,” Shafie said.
“If the federal government or agencies can make all sorts of announcements, then how is it me as the caretaker chief minister cannot do the same for the state government or departments?
“If the federal agencies can function in Sabah then why can’t the state ones operate too?
“For instance, in terms of medicines from the Health Ministry, do we need to wait until after the election, people will die.”