Sabah government to investigate demolition of Palau community houses in Semporna amid controversy

KOTA KINABALU: The state government is trying to find out the circumstances surrounding the demolition of Bajau Laut (Palau) community houses in the Tun Sakaran Marine Park area in Semporna district.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew expressed surprise upon learning about the operation through social media, claiming that she was unaware of the authorities involved.

Videos circulating online show plain-clothed individuals carrying out the demolition of the wooden stilt houses, with some footage showing the presence of a police officer and another individual in a green vest.

When questioned about the identity of these people and the absence of official authorities identifiable by their uniforms, Liew acknowledged that the situation was unusual but stated her lack of knowledge regarding who was in charge.

"I have no idea. I am trying to find out the actual story behind this issue because it came as a surprise to me when I received the report through social media,” she said.

Liew said she would issue a proper statement once a full report on the incident has been obtained from Sabah Parks and other officials on the ground.

Earlier, Liew was asked if she saw any violation of human rights in this case, to which she at first responded in the negative, but later explained that she could not give a definitive answer due to the technicalities involved.

"I would address human rights violations when we have more information because we need to determine the nationalities of the affected individuals, the nature of the violations, and whether these people were offered to live elsewhere,” she said.

Liew said it was also important to find out whether there were any counter offers or rejections from the Palau community if any offers to move inland were made.

"I am sure the authorities have their reasons on what they were doing, I would like to go further than that rather than just say whether there are violations or not," she said.

It was learnt that the demolition took place over two days from June 4, involving seven islands in Semporna, including Pulau Bohey Dulang, Pulau Maiga, Pulau Bodgaya, Pulau Sebangkat and Pulau Sibuan.

Several non-governmental organisations have condemned the demolition, alleging that hundreds of Palau have lost their homes in what they consider an inhumane and rights-violating action.

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