14th June, 2012
KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Land and Development Board (SLDB) denies having threatened villagers at Kg Bakung-Bakung in Semporna for opposing the implementation of a mini estet sejahtera (Mesej) programme.
SLDB advisor for rural community development and special service, Jilis Ismail stated that the project manager informed that it was a villager who intimidated them and that was why a police report was lodged.
He was responding to a statement made by Sappari Saidal on the seventh day of a series of public hearing on the National Inquiry into the Customary Land Righs of the Indigenous People in Sabah, which resumed yesterday after a three-day break.
The hearing was chaired by Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chairman, Tan Sri Hasmy Agam and assisted by commissioners, Jannie Lasimbang and Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah.
Jilis told the inquiry that SLDB was only acting as the implementing agency to carry out the Mesej programme under instruction from the Ministry of Rural Development.
In Kg Bakung-Bakung, he said some 50 acres of land was cleared for the cultivation of oil palm by SLDB.
He said the task of the contractor was only to clear the land before SLDB would come in to do planting.
People in situ would be hired with usually one worker per 10 acres of land.
Earlier, in his testimony Sappari said the villagers in Kg Bakung-Bakung had applied for the land twice in 1994 and 1996 through the Land Office in Semporna but the land was not surveyed except for one that belonged to an individual.
He said the villagers were informed of the Mesej programme in 2010 and the following year, a meeting between the community, people development officer, district officer and SLDB was held.
“We were told that some 250 acres of land will be used for the Mesej programme. Of the total, 50 acres of land would be used for a housing aid programme for 33 participants. The remaining 200 acres land would be divided equally among the 33 participants for the cultivation of oil palm,” said Sappari with each participant getting about six acres of land.
However, he said the villagers in Kg Bakung-Bakung opposed the Mesej programme as they had already developed some 10 acres of the land with oil palm since 2003 and if the project proceeded they would lose four acres of their land.
“We are enjoying the harvest now and we are against the Mesej programme because when implemented we not only lose four acres of our land but our crops will be cut down without any assurance of compensation from the authorities,” said Sappari.
He therefore urged the Land Office to speed up the process of approving their land application and to issue them with land titles.
He also wanted the 19 participants who developed the 10 acres of land to be maintained, and urged the authorities to leave them out of the Mesej programme if the project should proceed.