KOTA KINABALU: Sabah's political temperature seems to be rising even before the date for the 16th state election is announced on Monday (Aug 17).
As caretaker Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal crisscrosses the state to hand out promised native land titles to villagers, his opponents are questioning the haste with which this is being done, accusing the incumbent Warisan Plus coalition of trying to fish for votes.
In the east coast Beluran district on Saturday (Aug 15), Shafie dismissed the criticism.
He said his opponents should ask for an investigation to be opened over the distribution of native land titles to people in Kiulu by former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman during the May 2018 general election.
"If they can give out, why can't we?
"This is the responsibility of the government, but they want to call it a bribe," he said when giving out native land titles to villagers in Beluran about 300km from the state capital.
Before asking for an investigation into Warisan Plus for allegedly breaching election laws, it would be better for Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) to find out whether the distribution of land titles in Kiulu sub-district in Tuaran was proper, he said.
"We have been giving land titles since last year.
"It was our promise to the people who have been applying for (deeds to) their traditional land for decades and were never entertained by previous governments," Shafie said in reference to PBS secretary-general Datuk Jahid Jahim's call for the Election Commission (EC) to investigate the native land title distribution.
Sabah Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor has claimed that the Parti Warisan Sabah president was not being truthful about the native land titles that he was distributing across the state.
"It is clear that he (Shafie) is fishing for votes and people's support," Hajiji said.
He said that the land native grants distributed by Shafie were actually the work of the previous state government under Sabah Barisan Nasional through the Program Pengukuran Hak Tanah Adat Negeri Sabah (Sabah Native Land Survey Project) known as Pantas.
Hajiji, who was a state minister under the Sabah Barisan government, said the programme was introduced in 2011 because of delays in resolving land applications by natives.
"Most of the land titles were already prepared by the previous government but were not distributed on time," he said.
Native land issues, including land grabs by big companies, were among the key issues used by Warisan in the last election which saw the party and its partners ousting Sabah Barisan led by Tan Sri Musa Aman in a closely fought election.
Hajiji said Warisan Plus was desperate, rushing to give out titles because they were trying to fish for votes ahead of the coming state election.
"Why not do it before the July 30 dissolution of assembly. Why now?" Hajiji asked.
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