Owners do not want their land to be turned into commercial plantations

Thomas (seated, centre) wants to preserve the land for future generations.

Thomas (seated, centre) wants to preserve the land for future generations.

SIBU: More than 500 landowners in Ulu Ngemah, Kanowit, have made it clear to a company that it should not go against their wishes to develop their land for the commercial planting of coconut and oil palm.

Kanowit PKR division chairman Thomas Laja, in speaking at a press conference, said these landowners formed an association and five pro-tem committees to safeguard their land totalling 16,000ha from encroachment.

They are Pang Junan People’s Association (PJPA), Sungai Empurau/Lepong Gagup NCR pro-tem committee, Ulu Ngemah pro-tem committee, Ngemah Tengah Ulu pro-tem committee, Ngemah Sepali People pro-tem committee and Ulu Ngemah Semujan NCR pro-tem committee.

“About 30% of the landowners who received upfront payment had agreed to let the company develop the land.

“But the 70% majority were against it. This led to a heated quarrel at one time between the two groups in front of Kanowit MP Datuk Aaron Dagang and the police,” he said.

Thomas said the 30% had no choice but to agree to lease their land for development as they did not have proper income.

“We understand that the company had engaged a middleman to approach the main authority for project approval.

“The landowners strongly oppose this behind-the-scenes dealing,” he added.

Thomas said the company should not push to get its project started as the majority of the owners were not in favour of it.

“This case has been on and off for about three years. The company must respect and honour the rights of the landowners,” he said.

He said a dialogue would be taking place on June 26 at Rumah Kilat in Ngungun.

“I urge the landowners to attend to show their stance that they are against the company from using their property for development,” he added.

The event would also be attended by officials from the state Modernisation of Agriculture Ministry.