KOTA KINABALU 05/12/2012: Sabah Land and Survey Department director Datuk Osman Jamal will soon be calling a meeting with smallholders and officials from a company pertaining to the Koyah A, B and C land problems in Sukau.
Stressing that he would want to find the best solution to the existing problem, he said he had gone through the letters sent to the department from lawyers representing 400 smallholders who claimed that they had been cheated by a company some two decades ago.
“Some of the smallholders claimed that the company had taken their land for the purpose of development.
“We were told that one of the smallholders had submitted an application to the state government to work with the said company to develop their 4,900 hectares of land and that they would also get their returns.
“The application was approved with three conditions. One, the smallholders should surrender the letters of offer, which have been done in 1994, This means the land is now a state land. Secondly, upon surrendering the letters of offer, it would then be converted to shares which will be paid by the company.
“This is where the problem begins as the company claimed that the smallholders are divided into three groups, and each wants their demand to be met. It was hard for the company to come up with a common figure to satisfy everyone, thus hampering them from developing the land. It has now been two decades, and the land has yet to be developed. The plan was to turn it into an oil palm plantation,” Osman explained.
He said until this matter was settled, the Department could not process the application.
Thirdly, it was said that any compensations, survey works and road construction costs would be determined by the Department.
“Some of the smallholders are claiming that they never signed any agreement with the company. But this is beyond the state government or the Department’s jurisdiction. The best solution, I believe, is for them to go through legal process to determine on whether the documents are genuine or otherwise.
“If the documents are forged, then the smallholders have the right to cancel the whole agreement with the company, but if it is verified genuine, then the Department would continue processing the company’s development plan and come up with shares for the smallholders — either way, the smallholders will still benefit,” he said.
He was commenting on the recent news reports over the plights voiced by smallholders in Sukau.
It was learnt that on Sept 29, 1998, the state government had approved a 4,900 ha land for Bagus Maju Sdn Bhd with the collaboration of smallholders
“We are trying to find the best mechanism to overcome these issues, especially legal matters, before making any recommendations to the state government,” he told reporters at his office, here, yesterday.
On another issue, the Department arrested six people during a raid at an alleged illegal sand-dredging operation at Kampung Melulugus in Beaufort on Nov 28.
In the 11am raid, the Department’s enforcement team also seized three excavators, three lorries and two sand pumps.
“The six were investigated under Section 168 of the Land Ordinance Cap 68, and were released on police bail the next day. If convicted by the court, they each would face a fine not exceeding RM100,000, or a jail term of not more than five years, or both.
“This is the largest raid in terms of number of suspects arrested, vehicles seized since the amendment of the Land Ordinance in 2005, for enhancement of enforcement power,” he said.
Osman added that the operation was jointly carried out with the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission.
“With the cooperation, we successfully apprehended two illegal sand extraction operators simultaneously. This was the first arrest in Beaufort,” said Osman.
He said, this year alone, the Department had recorded 36 public complaints, against last year’s 42 complaints.
“Public information is vital to us, so as such, we welcome the people to lodge their complaints by either coming to the office or contact us at tel: 088-527643,” he said.
Osman said Sabah’s land area is 3/5 of Sarawak.
“We only have 43 full-time enforcement personnel whereas Sarawak has 270. In order to achieve maximum output and full control of all land related illegal activities, we need at least 160 enforcement personnel.
“The Department has requested for additional enforcement personnel from the Finance Ministry and is pending approval,” he said.
by Sandra Sokial