Preserve the remaining padi fields: NGO
Published on: Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Kota Kinabalu: Having native lands whose status is specifically for rice cultivation converted into commercial purposes is both alarming and shocking."I fully support the stand taken by Penampang District Officer Luvita Koisun with regards to her position in defending the status of the paddy lands in Penampang and the status of Native Lands to remain as native lands to be cultivated for the purpose they are intended for," said Sabah Reform Movement Chairman Datuk Seri Wilfred Bumburing, in a statement, Monday.

He said huge tracts of lands in the State, especially on the east of Sabah, are now in the hands of big corporations who are non-natives although some of these lands may have been alienated to the natives in the first place.

For some reason, said Bumburing, despite the status of these lands, non-natives or non-Sabahans are able to buy the lands and transfer their ownership to the new owners who are mostly non-natives.

"Since my time as member of the Sabah cabinet, I have always suggested to the Government that the paddy lands should be preserved for food security in the future. "We can safely say today that the rice production in Sabah is less than 30 per cent and it is going down.

"Next year, the Federal Government is withdrawing or stopping subsidy for rice and, thus, rendering this most precious food commodity becoming very expensive to the people, especially the lower income group," he said.

Bumburing said the government should find ways to assist paddy farmers maintain the status of their paddy lands by providing assistance to them instead of letting them abandon their farming activities and turn these lands into wastelands.

"If I read correctly, in the 2016 Federal Budget, RM70million would be allocated to assist hill paddy farmers in Sabah and Sarawak but no mention of assistance provided for wet rice cultivation.

"It is time the government puts a serious and concerted effort in helping this sector," he said.

On Monday, Luvita expressed shock when she found out that several paddy lands at the Kodundungan plain, one of the last remaining tracts of paddy lands left in the district, had been acquired by non-natives despite the lands' Native Title status.

It was puzzling how these native lands could have ended up in the possession of non-natives without the Lands and Surveys Department's knowledge.

She was adamant that as long as she is the district officer, she would not allow the paddy conservation zone to be changed to a commercial zone.

"As long as I am around, the answer is 'No way'," she said.


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