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‘Natives can stay in forest reserves’

Natives have the right to stay in their villagers which have
been 'awarded' to companies for oil palm plantations.
By Luke Rintod of FMT
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah natives who have suddenly discovered that their kampungs are within gazetted forest reserves or inside the newly-created Forest Managament Unit (FMU) have every right under Sabah law to continue living in their villagers without being harassed by the authorities.

Former Chief Minister Yong Teck Lee said the state government had acknowledged the villager’s right in April.

“Actually in April this year, in a belated recognition to native villages in forest reserves, the state government had finally acknowledged that FMUs do confer community rights on villages within FMUs.

“In fact current CM Musa Aman had conceded that the state government was studying all rural settlements in forest reserves,” Yong told FMT after meeting with a representative of the affected villages in Kota Marudu.

He was responding to the surging complaints especially from Kota Marudu areas that more and more kampungs might have been included or ‘accidentally put’ inside large tracts of lands being alienated to companies for FMU projects.

According to Yong, who is also president of Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), the status quo of these rural settlements within forest reserves or FMUs would be maintained provided there was no expansion activities in the area concerned.

‘FMU recognises NCR’

He said under the arrangement, communities within forest reserve in Sabah are eligible for every recognition and help from the government as is being enjoyed by normal villages especially water supply, electricity an roads.

“Not only that, if the number of villagers including children are substantial, the government and the FMU operators are obliged to provide more basic amenities including schools, clinics and other amenities needed by these naive villages,” Yong said.

He added that it is the duty of the government of the day to look after its people and not to cause harm to their peaceful livelihood.

He said one the conditions in the “Sustainable Forest Management Licence Agreement” for FMUs is that native customary rights or NCR land found established within an FMU must be respected and upheld according to Forest Enactment 1968.

“The government must ensure that conditions spelt-out in the FMU agreements are adhered to.

“It is the government who should defend the NCR rights of the natives of Sabah…” Yong explained.

Yong’s own name has been unfairly linked to the various problems faced by natives especially those who have suddenly found themselves living within the boundaries of FMUs and in some cases on land which have been awarded to private companies for palm-oil and rubber plantations.

North-eastern villagers affected

The worst affected areas are in the north-east of Sabah stretching from Beluran to Kota Marudu and Pitas districts where a company by the name of Begaraya Sdn Bhd was awarded 65,000 acres of land.

Furious complaints from the affected villagers in Kota Marudu and Pitas have attracted the attention of concerned federal leaders who recently despatched its Director of Biro Tata Negara in Sabah, Ibrahim Saad, to these remote areas.

Ibrahim was understood to have presented a special report on his visit to Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak.

Meanwhile, the issue of land-grab involving Begaraya was raised at the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) annual congress yesterday.

A delegate from Tandek constituency (in Kota Marudu), in debating a motion of thanks to PBS president’s policy speech, bluntly told the congress that the issue is the biggest matter in Tandek that needed to be addressed by the party and BN.

“Stop this Begaraya issue or we will face the wrath of the people during the election…” was among what the delegate said amidst applause from other delegates.

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