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Land grabs: ‘Police colluding with company’

By Luke Rintod of FMT
Villagers in remote Sabah have accused police
of helping a company occupy their land.
KOTA KINABALU: The displacement of villagers is continuing unabated in remote corners of Sabah – out of the public eye despite claims to the contrary by the Barisan Nasional (BN) state government.

Yet another land-grab case has surfaced. This time, it is in Kampung Mapat and Kampung Mapad in Pitas.

The victims lodged a police report here yesterday claiming that police had assisted a private company, Syarikat Jayasama Sdn Bhd, alienate their NCR (native customary rights) land.

(Land matters come under the Paitan sub-district of Beluran district, though administratively the kampungs are under the Pitas district.)

Luking Mungui @ Luping, 42, one of the villagers, claimed that the lands in question had been theirs since 1923 and had been planted with rubber trees there as early as in 1984.

“NCR was long established in Mapat and Mapad in Paitan. There are five generations of us already. However, in June 2011, two policemen from the Beluran station came together with workers of a company who started to encroach into our NCR land.

“To our astonishment, these policemen – one known as Corporal Sarakil and the other unknown – were looking after the workers who started to encroach and tried to clear our land.

“Yesterday four policemen came in the company’s vehicle, threatening the villagers,” he said at a press conference soon after they lodged the police report.

No copy of court order

According to Luking, who is also the JKKK (village safety and security committee) chairman of Kampung Mapat in Pitas, the policemen stayed with the company’s workers at their “rumah kongsi” in Mapat.

NCR is established when it is ascertained that Sabah natives have lived and toiled on the land for at least three years.

Luking said that on Sept 22 this year at around 9am, Sarakil and another policeman by the name of Mazlan came to their kampung together with several company workers to tell the villagers that their visit was to show a “court order” for the Rungus villagers to vacate in one week the lands in Mapat and Mapad as the company will commence clearing the areas.

“However, these policemen did not give us a copy of the court order though we have asked for one.

“We even made a five-hour journey to Sandakan to meet the company’s lawyer, demanding the court order but they failed to show us a copy,” he said.

However, on Oct 20 at around 11.30am, while Luking and several villagers were still tapping their rubber trees, Sarakil and three other policemen arrested and handcuffed him.

They told Luking that he was detained because he had been obstructing the duty of a civil servant.

“I was brought by the police in the company’s vehicle to the Beluran district police. When we arrived, I was interrogated by four police officers.

“I was detained at the lock-up for one night and freed the next day,” Luking said, adding that he was shocked by the incident.

“The policemen are supporting the company, belittling our customary rights and destroying our livelihood by destroying our lands and crops.

“We will not surrender our rights. We will try to protect the evidence of our NCR claims…

“Besides destroying our rubber trees on 20 acres of land, they disturbed our ancestors’ graves, uprooted our herbal trees, our durian trees, rambutans, taraps, cempedaks, and other crops,” Luking said.

Violation of rights

Luking claimed that the villagers had been submitting land applications (for native title) since 2006 and sent numerous letters to the state Land and Survey Department to follow up on the applications.

“We also applied for a land inquiry on the existence of NCR lands there and the Beluran district office carried it out but until today there is no decision.

“How could the government do this to the natives?

“Since the 1970s, we have been given subsidies and planting grants by the Agriculture Department for planting coconut trees and to do paddy farming.

“In alienating our NCR land to a company without having any regard to our rights, the Land and Survey Department has violated our constitutional rights…”

“The current government is in breach of its fiduciary duty to protect the pre-existing rights, interests and title of the natives over the NCR land held by us…” Luking added.

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