KOTA KINABALU 22/10/2012: PACOS Trust is concerned with the newly established ‘Unit Pantas NCR’ (Native Customary Rights Fast Unit) system as it ignores the original concept of communal titles which should be about empowering communities to own and manage their own land as they see fit.
“Imagine if you and your neighbours share all the land in the housing estate you live in but the person who decides how the land is used, what is planted, or who can enter is decided by someone else who is not even from your housing estate and not familiar with your needs,” explained Anne Lasimbang, Executive Director of PACOS Trust.
“We think it is not appropriate for the Land and Survey Department to push forward with Pantas NCR as long as the fundamental issue of NCR is not resolved,” she stated.
In September, Datuk Osman Jamal, the director of the Land and Survey Department, announced the launching of this unit.
“Villagers 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,” said Anne in a statement yesterday.
Osman credited PACOS Trust for the idea to set up to the unit stemming from a memorandum from the Trust on NCR issues.
“PACOS Trust believes the concept of ‘Unit Pantas NCR’ is forward thinking and solution orientated but it should not be rushed until the fundamentals of the NCR is settled. It is like building a house without doing the foundations first,” explained Anne.
For this reason, the PACOS Trust urges the Land and Survey Department to also take into consideration the recommendations that will arise from the SUHAKAM National Inquiry Report, which will be released in November.
“For us, a communal title guarantees and strengthens the rights and roles of native communities and self-management of their lands. However since 2009, this has been changed and the rights given as a beneficiary does not allow for participatory management and unfortunately will erode customary traditions and practices within the said communities,” elaborated Anne.
“Before the ‘Unit Pantas NCR’ can be an effective medium, she said the government would have to make major changes to the concept of Communal Titles, and these changes would have to involve the native communities in land decisions, then only mobilisation of the Pantas NCR should take place.”
The PACOS Trust also stressed that they would be more than willing to work with the ‘Unit Pantas NCR’ once the issues of the NCR are settled.
“We also understand that the reasoning behind the department’s decision in allowing a third party to develop the land may have been done to protect the local communities, but in the long run the community lose their traditional role as keepers and managers of the land thereby not achieving the ultimate goal of poverty eradication,” added Anne.