A GROUP of villagers in Penampang near Kota Kinabalu are puzzled over continuing land clearing work along the Crocker Range despite stop-work order from the various authorities.
The villagers of Kampung Timpangoh Laut believe about 40ha of forests had been cleared.
They also saw 270 logs, some measuring at least 1m in diameter, being kept in the area and ready to be transported out.
Kampung Timpangoh Laut village development and security committee chairman Patrick Doulit said they feared land clearing work would affect Sungai Papar, which was the main water source for the Papar district.
Patrick said land clearing work began in November last year when a company claimed that it was part of a Sabah Rubber Fund Board plantation scheme.
“But I have a letter signed by the board general manager Datuk Harris Mathews dated June 14 this year stating that no approval had been given for any plantation scheme in the area,” he said.
Patrick said the board had only received application from 29 prospective small holders to plant rubber on 118ha of land.
He said State Land and Survey Department had, in a letter dated Aug 30 also stated that no one was allowed to carry out any activities on the land.
He added that the department had explained that although the area had been surveyed, there was no approval for the land to be alienated to any applicant yet.
Patrick said Penapang District Officer Stephen Sondoh, in a letter to the company, had directed it to stop work because there was no approval from the board.
“The company abided by the order for a while but resumed work after a few weeks,” he said.
Philip Lasimbang, state assemblyman for Moyog which includes the affected area, said the District Office had been asked to probe into the land clearing work.
“The matter is a bit complicated as there are other villagers who are in favour of the land clearing work because it would mean roads being built in their remote kampungs,” Philip said when contacted recently.
The villages are Kampung Buayan and Kampung Terian. Villagers here have to endure a two-day trek to go to the weekly tamu or farmers’ market at Donggongon in Penampang.
Philip said he was trying to get the Sabah Federal Development Office to fund the construction of the road in the isolated villages.