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'Towkays' exploiting local villagers over land: Musa
Published on: Thursday, August 11, 2016

Kota Kinabalu: Middlemen, some of them towkays, are exploiting local villagers by giving them money to open up state lands for the cultivation of commercial crops and later getting them to apply for the land ownership from the State Government.Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman (pic), who disclosed such goings-on in the rural areas, said communal title lands have also not been spared by such opportunists.

Concerned that these activities, if left unchecked, would tip the balance when it comes to the land ownership policies of the Government, Musa on Wednesday directed the Land and Survey Department and Forestry Department to carry out investigations immediately.

He warned that opportunists will face stern action if found to be deliberately exploiting local villagers in such way.

"We found out that some State lands have been encroached by local villagers and they opened up the lands by cultivating oil palm trees on a large scale, including building terraces on the lands, as well as other crops.

"We know the capability and capacity (financially) of these villagers…such cases have happened in Keningau and several other areas where the cost to open up the land and planting it with oil palm is not cheap. In fact, very costly.

"We suspect that there are certain people who are paying the villagers to do so and to apply for the lands from us.

That is why I ask the Land and Survey Department and Forestry Department to seriously look into these cases and take action," he said.

Musa said this in a press conference following the sitting of the State Legislative Assembly here, Wednesday.

He said the State Government will give priority to local villagers who have been living long on State lands since the time of their ancestors as well as landless villagers and not to outsiders who have their own lands in other areas.

He said they would not give State lands to people, including villagers, who repeatedly apply for the lands as well as outsiders who clearly have nothing to do with the lands they apply.

Earlier, in replying to a supplementary question from Kuala Penyu Assemblyman Limus Jury and Tamparuli Assemblyman Datuk Seri Wilfred Bumburing, Musa said the uniqueness and beauty of the communal titles is that the owners cannot sell their lands but they can toil and develop the lands with commercial crops except cash crops.

He said the landowners of communal titles can also pass on the land to their children and family members for many generations.

As for infrastructures on some communal title land that have no basic amenities, Musa said the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak through the Rural and Regional Development Ministry has approved a funding of over RM200 million to provide roads, power and water supply to lands issued with communal titles.

"We also found out about opportunists taking advantage of local villagers to apply for lands after planting oil palm trees.

"After a land inquiry and investigation was carried out on those cases, we found out the villagers were being paid to apply for those lands and that these opportunists would bear all costs to open the land with commercial crops.

"There are also a few cases where local villagers staged demonstrations using placards accusing the Government of being cruel for not giving them land and this was politicised by irresponsible quarters including the opposition when we have been giving many hundreds thousands of acres to people in Sabah.

"Later on, we found out they were being used by middlepersons and opportunists including towkays to achieve their agenda," he said.

Explaining, Musa cited the late Kuamut Assemblyman Datuk Abdul Malek Chua who revealed that local villagers in his constituency who had thousands of acres of lands had sold their lands to towkays.

He said the State Government did try to acquire the lands from the towkays but only a small acreage was later agreed to be handed back to the Government.

Meanwhile, on the passing of an amendment bill to increase the State seats from 60 to 73, Musa, who is also Sabah Barisan Nasional Chairman, said the allocation of these seats among the component parties would be carried out after the Election Commission decides on the new 13 state seats.

He was pleased that the three-day sitting ended smoothly and that there was active participation from among Assembly members including from the opposition.

He said the sitting was a historical one as the amendment bill to increase the State seats received the support of most of the Opposition members of the House.



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