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Land tussle: Temporary relief for Kota Belud villagers

Rumours of widespread land grabs by the authorities in
Sabah has put local native communities on alert.
KOTA BELUD: Villagers in two kampungs here received a temporary respite from efforts to survey and take over their native customary rights (NCR) land despite their objections.

The Sabah government, already under pressure over accusations of land-grabs across the state, was forced to backdown temporarily in a tussle with the natives over a large parcel of land in two kampungs that have been earmarked for an agropolitan project.

The residents of Bungaliu and Bubuk, near Pandasan, the two kampungs in question are now waiting for the authorities next move.

The authorities are aspiring to include their land as part of a million-ringgit “agropolitan project”.

A team of senior officers accompanied by police personnel arrived at the kampung last Friday (Oct 7) to commence a land survey but later agreed to postpone the exercise when the villagers claimed it to be their NCR land.

A leader of the local Dusun native people residing in the two kampungs, Antonis Angkup, told FMT that “the officers agreed in writing that what the villagers claimed to be their NCR land should not be included in the proposed 3,000-acre of federally-funded projects aimed at ensuring food security.

“For the moment we are relieved and we hope they will honour their word not to encroach into our NCR lands.

“They requested elders of the two kampungs to mark the boundary of our NCR land and we will carry this out soon,” he said.

‘Don’t take away land‘

Hundreds of natives of the two kampungs refused to allow the survey, claiming the land was already cultivated with rubber trees and they were practicing shifting cultivation on the land with other other cash crops including hill paddy.

Angkup, 35, who is also the Bungaliu village development and security (JKKK) deputy chairman, said he was told by the officers that the proposed agropolitan plan involved clearing the land so that it could be replanted with rubber trees and then allotted to approved “scheme participants”.

“The government should be helping us with high-yielding rubber trees … we are hard-working farmers ever ready to toil the land if they can help us develop the land further.

“It is disturbing hearing stories of villagers in other districts who tell us how their land was taken away.

“This is our NCR land, it is not just state land … they must not simply force their way against our will as we know our rights … what guarantee is there for our future if they take away our livelihood,” Angkup asked.

Musa’s hand

Under regulations established by the British colonial government NCR is equivalent to having a title to land that the natives had cultivated for at least three consecutive years.

Under the proposed agropolitan plan, 800 acres of the total land earmarked for the project is to be carved out of nearby Kampung Rosok, while the remaining 2,200 acres would be from the hilly Bungaliu and Bubuk areas.

When the villagers initially protested, Angkup, was summoned to the Kota Belud District Office and warned not to go against the federal government project.

Bordering Bungaliu and Bubuk is Rampayan. Here another land rights problem has evolved involving large grazing reserve areas claimed as NCR by the Iranuns natives.

That area is being eyed by a company for a proposed five-star beach resort project.

Both affected areas are under the Tempasuk state constituency currently represented by Musbah Jamli, a close ally of Chief Minister Musa Aman.

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