Sabah natives wary over communal land titles


SHAH ALAM: The amendment to communal titles of the Sabah Land Ordinance must be repealed if the state government is serious about addressing the natives’ concern over their traditional territories, says a non-governmental organisation.

Sabah Pacos Trust programme coordinator for land rights Galus Ahtoi said in the special terms of the amendment to Section 76 of the ordinance, the anak negeri or indi­genous people were deemed beneficiaries of the communal native title and not as owners according to their native customary rights (NCR).

“Going by the NCR, they are ow­ners of the land that had been handed down by their ancestors based on tanah adat (traditional territories),” he said.

Galus was here for the Interna­­­tional Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples celebrations from Aug 6-9 in Taman Botani Negara.

He said while the indigenous people wanted communal land grants, the amendment was not what they had bargained for.

The “communal titles” that was in­­troduced in the amendment de­­viated from their traditional territories concept which the indigenous people had known and practised.

Another grave concern was that the Government’s communal title had included outsiders while many of the natives living in the area were not listed, he added.

Galus said when the state government launched the communal grant for Sapulut 4 Nabawan, the mostly Murut natives did not know who were listed in the grant.

The land developer and the Government paid RM300 to RM2,000 to the beneficiaries after they were asked to sign a document and since the older ones were illi­terate, Galus claimed many did not realise what they had signed until their orchards were bulldozed.

“Worse, they did not even see the agreement then, which was in English,” he said.

Pacos had sent a memorandum to the Sabah Land and Survey Department in 2011 on the matter but the issuing of the communal titles persisted and as of today, more than 60 titles have been issued, said Galus.

“We want a communal native title based on NCR and on tanah adat, not on the state’s communal title terms,” he said.

Indigenous People’s Network of Malaysia (JOAS) secretary-general Jannie Lasimbang said the communal titles were initially defined as land-based on the NCR which have their traditional territories demarcated.

However, with the amendment to Section 76, the communal title did not have to be based on NCR and it could be land that the Government considered as state land and could be allocated to a particular com­munity, she said.

“The problem is the areas where they want to issue communal titles are actually NCR land.

“They invite various communities, including people from outside the area, to be beneficiaries in that communal title,” she said.

Jannie said communal titles were made up of land held in trust by the district office or the assistant collector of land revenue who determined the conditions such as crops to cultivate and whether the land could be given to the next of kin.

She said the Government had then used the land for joint ventures with private companies or developers.

“The natives are not sure of the future of their land,” she said.


   

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