Native land issue in Sabah State Assembly
THE Forestry Department Annual Report 2015 tells us that Sabah land mass is 7.4 million hectares with a total forest reserve of about 3,551,246.78 ha, Parks and wildlife at 274,129 ha and plantation forest at 239,785.75 ha. This forest cover represents about 49% of the total landmass of Sabah.
Land is and has always been a contentious issue, especially among the Anak Negeri or Natives of Sabah and Sarawak.
For the natives, there is such thing as Native Customary Reserve or NCR as per Section 14 of the Land Ordinance (Sabah Chap 68). Section 15 of the said Ordinance gives the definition of Customary Rights.
In the national budget 2016, there is an allocation for RM20 million to survey NCR land in Sabah. After the budget was approved, I did speak out in the Sabah State Assembly to thank the federal government for the kind gesture.
I then said in the House that the village chief and JKKK should quickly ascertain all the NCR lands and inform the Land Office and district officer so that the necessary administrative procedures can be executed leading to the surveying of the land.
Responding to my question at the Sabah State Assembly, the government said, in 1988 the government did establish a special working unit in the Land & Survey Department to survey and prepare titles for NCR claimants.
A form LSF.1898 from the claimant is handed over to the village chief and endorsed by the Collector of Land Revenue before a survey can be done.
However, this policy was halted in 1997 and all NCR claimants were processed through land hearing. The government has now set up a mobile NCR land service or PANTAS.
Of late, the government has been using Section 76 to issue communal titles with an aim of ensuring common use, benefit to the natives and without any power of sales.
However, Section 77 allows the sub-division of communal titles, and this is what the government is using to open up the land through joint ventures. The government has, however, declared that beneficiaries are free to develop the allotted land without a joint venture.
The communal land is rapidly processed through the so-called “Fast Track Planned Land Alienation” (FTPLA) and to also resolve issues related to the said land.
FTPLA therefore resolves the delay in issuance of land titles to natives who applied directly under the direct land alienation.
It will also resolve overlapping land applications and ensure government lands or lands settled by natives in the villages are not taken over by unqualified persons or companies.
FTPLA is hoping to resolve all government land settled by natives or claimants to NCR which did not go through the land hearing process.
Finally, FTPLA hopes to resolve the sticky issue of land being sold by natives as they like.
The government acknowledges that there is dissatisfaction registered on the communal titles. The main complaint comes from people outside the area who have applied for the land whereby their land applications are cancelled.
There are complaints of beneficiaries who are registered but are not qualified. There is issue with beneficiaries who are government staff and who must first have an approval from their heads of department.
The other complaint comes from the people outside the area who have settled in the area under the Minor Settlement Scheme and where a communal title has been issued.
These native outsiders are allowed to work on the land through a minor lease on the communal land for 30 years and any extension depends on the mutual agreement between the outsiders and beneficiaries.
The other complaint received is when qualified persons are not listed or registered by the village chief or chairman of JKKK as beneficiary.
My question on 26 November 2015 again relates to NCR land. The government informed me that a total of 44,955 titles as TL (Temporary Lease), PL (Permanent Lease), NT (Native Title) and FR (Field Register) covering 212,054.00 hectares have been issued out in the Interior involving the district of Keningau, Tambunan, Nabawan and Tenom.
Out of this, a total of 739 titles covering 56.269 hectares are TL which is the town area. The CL (Country Lease) totaled 44,216 titles covering 211,997.73 hectares.
There are 46 communal titles covering 71,109 hectares involving 5,302 beneficiaries. A total of 11,152 acres under TL, PL, CL, NT and FR in Keningau, Tambunan, Nabawan and Tenom have been surveyed and in the process of preparing the draft titles.
As of November 2015, a total of 17 communal titles covering an area of 36,835.37 acres involving 4,300 beneficiaries have been developed though joint ventures with government-linked companies and private companies.
There is another way of giving land to the natives, namely, through native reserves.
Section 78 discuss about the establishment of Native Reserves. The Yang DiPertua Negeri must approve their establishment to protect the present and future interests and well-being of the natives of Sabah.
The TYT will sanction the alienation to the natives to provide land for future cultivation.
The issuance of communal land and the handing over of the titles to the beneficiaries have not gone unnoticed.
It is not surprising to see the Chief Minister in remote parts of the country to hand over the titles.
One can say it is a political gesture, but as the government of the day having seen to deliver on their promise to give land to the natives it is basically another case of fulfillment of a promise.
Only time will tell us if the issuance of the communal titles is the best decision made by the government of the day.
We still hear the so-called ‘land grab’ and the natives being pushed out of the land that the authority insist is encroached.
I am still saddened by what had happen to the natives at Kg Bototong Telupid where their houses were destroyed by chainsaws.
We will continue to hear of vast tracts of land applied by companies which impacted on the natives and elicited protests, including legal actions indicating that the land issue is and will always be contentious.
Deputy Speaker Datuk Johnson Tee (left) and wife after the opening of the Sabah Assembly by the Head of State.
By Dr Edwin Bosi