KOTA KINABALU April 24, 2012: The Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) should return 306,000 acres of land to the State after it reneged from its obligations to develop the land given to FELDA intended to serve the interest of the people.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) state government should be held responsible for its failure to protect the interest of the state and its people in the land settlement schemes undertaken by FELDA.
“As a result, the state government had sacrificed more than 306,000 acres of its prime agricultural land to the federal government, including thousands of acres of state land involving native customary land held by the local native communities such as in Tungku of Lahad Datu.
“As the government of the day, the BN should explain to the people and account for its failure and incompetence in allowing FELDA to deviate from its original objective after having allocated some 306,000 acres of State land to FELDA for land settlement schemes intended to serve the benefit of the people of Sabah,” she said at a press conference after an informal meeting with Sabah PKR leaders at Golden Seafood Restaurant in Tanjung Aru near here, yesterday.
In a witten statement, Azizah said in 1979, the chief minister of Sabah Berjaya Government invited FELDA to develop about 200,000 acres of land in the district of Kinabatangan for the purpose of settlement scheme subject to the conditions of a written agreement signed on behalf of the then state government and FELDA.
The total acreage was later increased to 250,000 acres covering Kinabatangan and Lahad Datu in 1983 and further increased to more than 306,000 acres.
She added that in the written agreement, FELDA had agreed to establish the Selection Committee to manage the selection and engagement of settlers for the settlement scheme.
“FELDA should appoint at least two members representing the Sabah State Government as members of the Selection Committee consisting of a total of four members with a FELDA member as its chairman.
“FELDA had also agreed that a settler selected by the Selection Committee shall be entitled to, amongst other things, be engaged in the development and maintenance of the allocated land subject to payment of wages and dividends,” she said.
Azizah stressed that in the agreement, FELDA was required to provide a housing plot of land to each settler and his family together with a dwelling house built on it within the residential land of the scheme.
In fact, FELDA only used less than 10 per cent of the land allocated to it by the state government for the intended settlement scheme involving only about 1,500 settlers, each allocated with 14 acres of land.
All good things, she said, came to an end for Sabah after FELDA had taken over the land from the state, and the federal government, in breach of its obligations under the agreement, decided not to take any new settlers in January 1990.
She further explained the reason given was that the federal government wanted to reduce its financial burden in providing infrastructure and basic facilities within the schemes.
“But the federal government or FELDA did not relinquish or return the land to the state despite having abandoned its original objective for land allocated by the state government.
“The present BN state government should explain why it had allowed FELDA to deviate from its original objective and why the BN state government had failed to enforce the written agreement signed during the Berjaya government,” she said.
Instead, Azizah added FELDA continued to occupy and develop the massive acreage of land into oil palm plantation as landowner utilizing public funds and generating billions of revenues and profits for the benefit of the federal government.
“I am not surprised the revenues from Sabah had contributed substantially to the RM400 million FELDA Office Complex built recently in Kuala Lumpur.
“Judging from the development within FELDA scheme at Tungku in Lahad Datu which is akin to a township, the state government has indirectly allowed the creation of a new federal territory within the state of Sabah after Labuan,” she added.
According to her, in Tungku, FELDA manages its own security forces and controls and restricts the usage of public road at certain hours of the day.
FELDA has its own infrastructure, including power plant and water supply whereas ironically, the local communities adjacent to FELDA township are still without any basic facilities such as piped water and electricity supply.
Like the petroleum saga, the FELDA settlement scheme involving the loss of more than 306,000 acres of State land was another bad deal from the federal government at the expense of Sabah and its people.
“It is grossly unfair and reflects the arrogance of the federal BN government towards Sabah.”
She believes this is another case of the BN federal government having reneged on its obligations to the people of Sabah.
“So I urge the BN state government to take immediate steps to enforce the agreement including recovery of ownership of the land from FELDA for the benefit of the state and its people who are landless since it was FELDA which had abandoned the settlement scheme and did not honour its part of the bargain under the agreement.
“It is not difficult to understand why Sabah has become one of the poorest states in Malaysia after 48 years of nation-building under the BN government.
“It is time for the Sabah BN component parties and their elected members to stop playing lip service to the people when they have been part of present BN government for years,” she said.
Present at the press conference yesterday were PKR vice president Fuziah Salleh, PKR deputy secretary-general Darell Leiking, Sabah PKR chief Ahmad Thamrin Haji Jaini, PKR Sabah secretary Dr Roland Chia, Kota Kinabalu division chief Christina Liew and Tuaran division chief Ansari Abdullah.