Murut villagers continue push for native land titles amid state silence

Murut villagers from Sabah's interior Pensiangan turned up at the state capital to push for their native land titles to be issued.

KOTA KINABALU: Murut villagers from Sabah's interior Pensiangan area are continuing their push for their native land titles to be issued individually and not under a communal title.

Some 200 Kg Sapulut residents turned up in front of the Sabah Government Administrative Complex that houses Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor's office on Tuesday (May 25) demanding that the state government scrap the communal titles and issue them with native titles instead.

The villagers, working with Malaysia International Humanitarian Organisation (MHO), handed over their memorandum to an official from the Chief Minister's Department as they gathered peacefully outside the building.

Other natives having land issues from Keningau, Kundasang, Tongod and Sandakan joined the sit-in protest.

Earlier this month, the group sent similar memorandums to the state Lands and Survey Department in Kota Kinabalu and Keningau to highlight their plight.

In 2018, the state government under Parti Warisan agreed to issue individual native land titles to the villagers of Kg Sapulut and decided to scrap the previous state Barisan Nasional government's move to issue the controversial communal title.

However, when Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) took over the government in 2020, it decided to reinstate the communal titles, resulting in unhappiness.

The villagers now insist that the government stick to the decision to issue individual titles.

MHO secretary-general Datuk Hishamuddin Hashim told reporters that the communal grant for Kg Sapulut was awarded back to a company last year by the current state government after it was revoked in 2018.

"We have a written response from the Land and Survey Department that the state reclaimed the land when the communal grant was abolished (in 2018), but a small lease was approved in 2021," he said.

He said the reinstated lease was registered on Nov 11 last year and effective from July 1, 2013 to 2043.

"It means that the communal grant has been reinstated," he said.

Hishamuddin said the native communities were losing out as such communal land will be developed by individual companies under the scheme but the natives may not get true dividends from such joint ventures.

"We won't know if these companies earn a profit from their plantation activities but they could declare a losing concern to avoid paying dividends to landowners," he said.

Hishamuddin said the state government must scrap the communal title as the Sabah Land Ordinance states clearly that anyone cultivating a piece of land for over three years has a right to the land under Native Customary Rights.

The state government has yet to comment on the issue.

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