KOTA KINABALU September 26, 2012: A special unit, the first of its kind in the country, will be set up soon as part of the Sabah Land and Survey Department’s outreach programme for rural and interior folk in the state.
Dubbed the ‘Unit Pantas NCR’, or Native Customary Rights Fast Unit, it is expected to be officially launched in November.
“We realise the problems faced by the rural and interior folk who have to come to our office to settle land matters, which sometimes take days. It means costs for them to travel all the way from the village to the city. So instead of them coming to us, we will go out and meet them. This will save them a lot of time and money,”
said the department’s director Datuk Osman Jamal, yesterday.
Speaking to reporters after delivering his talk on Customary Land Rights and Community Title at the Sabah Information Department’s briefing, and dialogue with the media, here, he added that the unit was part of the RM25 million allocation from the federal government to survey issues concerning communal land with a view to issue communal land titles.
To date, Osman said they had purchased 23 four-wheel drive vehicles, which will be equipped with computers and Internet facilities, to enable them to carry out the programme.
“The unit will act as the department’s mobile office and will initially be meeting rural folk in Kota Marudu, Tongod, Beluran, Keningau and Nabawan because these areas have been identified to have among the highest number of low income natives.
“Village folk will be advised on issues related to law and land matters and collect information on whether they have settled on government lands and do not know what to do next, among others.
“In Sabah, not many people know the procedures of land application, so through this unit, we hope to talk and explain to them what is the best action to take,” he said.
Osman said this would prevent a third party from giving false information or influence villagers to sell their lands.
Attributing the idea to set up the unit from the Partners of Community Organisations in Sabah (Pacos) memorandum, he added that they had also studied its effectiveness from the successes achieved from neighbouring country Indonesia’s Larasita Programme.
“We were looking for a country that faces similar problems as ours and found Indonesia. We got to know about their Larasita Programme and went over to see how effective it is. They are getting allocation from the World Bank and is such a success. Through it, they were able to provide immediate answers to the villagers,” said Osman.
He said they hoped to come up with a strategy on how best to tackle the problems affecting locals, particularly natives in the state, and would be talking to village heads to learn the people’s grouses.
“Some may say that they have lived in the area for over two decades and have yet to be given land titles; we will give it consideration. Of course the criteria would be long existing villages who have long settled in the area. The unit’s objectives are to find issues affecting the people which did not reach to our attention. Our mission is to identify and find the best solution to it,” Osman assured the people.
On another development, Osman said Pacos Trust was not against the state government’s decision to issue communal titles, but rather hoped for a value-added measure.
“We have had a dialogue with them (Pacos) twice. And when we looked at the proposal to the National Integrity Council, the proposal made to the department was to look into the communal title issue. So we were just following based on our experiences and issues raised by the public and came up with the set of communal title, and the idea came from them.”
by Sandra Sokial