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Sabah's land laws need to be updated, harmonised
Published on: Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sabah Lands and Surveys Department Director Datuk Osman Jamal called for a transformation of the State's land laws.

He said the Sabah Land Ordinance 1930 has been in existence for more than 80 years albeit with some amendments since the formation of Malaysia in 1963 and needs to be improved, updated and harmonised with other legislation over land matters.

The latest was the issuance of Communal Titles which Osman touted at length as proof of the Sabah State Government's concern for Sabahan natives.

He said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman would announce in due course land to be alienated for needful graduates for entrepreneurial undertakings.

He cited how the Government accord preferential consideration to natives as no premium needs to be paid for land alienation to natives in perpetuity.

"The Government gives free land survey and collects annual land rent of only 50 sen per acre. The Government could collect more revenue (only RM600,000 quit rent was collected from NT lands when compared to the department's total revenue of RM300 million last year) from native lands (comprising 56 per cent of all lands) but it did not as a responsible Government (to the natives)," said Osman.

The Federal Government under the Bumiputra Lab has provided RM25m for land surveys and other services for natives under the Communal Title exercise and the once value added-lands are developed in future, they would benefit the natives and their descendants.

There are many native land disputes before the courts to be adjudicated which Osman said he could not comment on for the benefit of enquirers until the judiciary has ruled in finality.

The civil courts are bogged down with land dispute matters with insufficient number of judges to expedite the outcome as well as decided cases. At one instance, Osman said, "Saya pening baca keputusan mahkamah (I get a headache reading court decisions)."

He stressed that all court verdicts are respected by his department.

"If we are in the wrong, we would admit it."

Osman was also queried on native land matters under the jurisdiction of the Forestry Department whose Director was not a speaker at symposium, recently.

"I am not the Director of the Forestry Department," Osman replied.

Land is not an infinite natural resource available for all.

Osman explained at length that while land applications piled up, his department could only process a limited volume (12,000 average annual output) as the flow chart of the process involved many other authorities.

"Under the Sabah Land Ordinance, we practice an open system of land alienation," said Osman.

In some cases, there were agreements signed to sell off the lands applied for even when land applications were yet to be approved.

Only about 50 per cent of native lands alienated are developed for agriculture.

He said it was an exception rather than the norm if there was an officer or surveyor who forgot (pegawai lupa) his duty on the ground in giving his report on the actual condition.

He said even staff or civil servants from the same village complained on the delay or why they were not considered (in land applications) when the permission of the State Secretary has to be sought for such cases to override policy against it.

He said he would send his Native Unit mobile office to visit the ground to advise natives on important land matters and they would not be as naughty as another mobile service, apparently referring to the mobile courts that was in the news lately about clerks forging the signatures of magistrates on late birth registrations.

Osman regretted that for example interference with land administration process by elected representative of an area might cause delay as some would object to land applicants for being "Ini bukan orang saya" (of the same village or area) or worst, "Ini bukan penyokong saya."

He said what is important to his department's staff is to sincerely help the people when land is available for the right purpose.

If not, little can be done to satisfy all the land applicants.

Communal title is an option for natives to own land like the 26,000 hectares degazetted from forest reserves to benefit 6,000 natives.

When the descendents of natives are more educated and selves-reliant in the future, communal titles can be subdivided among them.

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