Villagers Get Native Titles After 30-Year Wait

TAWAU: An almost 30-year wait came to an end for communities in five villages here and another in Kalabakan when they finally received their native land titles from the state government today.

The villagers received 318 titles to 427 hectares of land from Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal at a ceremony here.

The five villages in Tawau are Kuala Merotai, Serudong, Apas Balung, Sungai Burong Mas-Mas and Sungai Tamang Pulau Sebatik while the one in Kalabakan is Kampung Ulu Murut.

Shafie said the people had the right to claim the land considering it had been toiled on for decades but which was taken away by previous administrations via certain agencies.

“Today, for instance, we have given lots to people in Tawau and (in other instances) places like Tongod, Keningau and Ranau,” he said.

“In Tongod, there were people who had been living there for 40 years (but previous) state administrations took and gazetted it as forest reserves and the people there became squatters.

“I have also instructed the Land and Survey Department to give land back to the people in Lahad Datu and Kunak.

“I have told Sawit Kinabalu, which has thousands of hectares, that land that has been toiled on belongs to the people.”

Shafie was speaking during the presentation of native land titles to villagers in Tawau and Kalabakan and the handing over of resettlement lots to fire victims from Kampung Tanjung Batu Otentik.

The people who lost their homes in the blaze here last year have the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to thank for after they received resettlement lots from the state government today.

A total of 67 houses were razed in the fire on Aug 26, 2019, rendering 112 families, comprising 87 local families and the rest non-citizens, homeless.

In his speech earlier, Land and Survey director Bernard Liew Chau Min said following the incident, the department conducted a survey at the site.

The survey found that the fire site involved four acres of government land.

“On Sept 2 last year, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, accompanied by the Head of State and the Chief Minister visited the site to present food aid and daily necessities,” he said.

“During the visit, the King had decreed to the state government to look into the reconstruction or resettlement of the village.

“In line with the decree, the chief minister had instructed the Tawau Municipal Council (TMC) and all related technical departments to help identify an area and rearrange the housing lots affected by the fire.

“(Subsequently) the fire site was identified as the best site to resettle the victims.”

Liew said his department then prepared a plan for the resettlement involving 67 lots, each measuring 0.06 acres.

The plan is to ensure the construction of new houses on the site will be in order and that each lot will have road access whether in the form of a road or bridges, he added.

“The resettlement site will be gazetted under Section 28 of the State Land Ordinance and the TMC will manage the site.

“With the handover, the families will now have their own lot to rebuild their houses,” he said.