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590 hectares excised from forest reserve
Published on: Thursday, October 25, 2012

Over 3,000 people residing in 13 villages within the Gumantong-Guluang-Gesusu Forest Reserve Class 1 have reason to smile now that the State Legislative Assembly has approved an amendment to de-gazette the status of the forest.

Matunggong Assemblyman Sarapin Magana, who welcomed the decision, said it would enable long-standing land applications by the villagers to be processed by the Land and Survey Department and local authorities.

"I am very grateful to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman for being concerned for the need of the villagers to occupy 590 hectares in the three areas.

"De-gazetting the three areas in the forest reserve is really good news and timely to the 3,500 villagers because they strongly believe they have native customary rights on the land as they have been living there for many generations.

"Also, they have been toiling the land for so long by planting rubber, coconut trees and oil palm and have been enjoying the harvests.

In addition, they have built their family homes and ancestral burial grounds in the three areas," he said.

Sarapin said this after the approval of the amendment to de-gazette the Gumantong-Guluang-Gesusu Forest Reserve Class 1, Wednesday.

The 590 hectares have been de-gazetted for the purpose of agriculture and settlements. These areas are found not suitable to be retained as Forest Reserves as the areas are titled land, occupied by settlers and have been degraded.

"Actually the area was gazetted as Forest Reserve Class 1 in 2007.

However, the villagers only realised that they are living inside the forest reserve belonging to the State Government, last year," said Sarapin.

"Therefore, they submitted their objection to me as the elected people representative and sought help to bring out the 13 villages from the forest reserve on the grounds that they have been living there for so many years.

"Together with Kota Marudu MP Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili, I highlighted the issue to the Assembly last year to de-gazette and the Government agreed to do so in the same year," he said.

However, Sarapin said the matter was not yet discussed as a Bill at the sitting last year and he explained to the villagers that the process would take some time.

Unfortunately, the opposition played the issue up to fish for votes by claiming that the Government wanted to grab the land from the villagers.

"On behalf of the villagers, thank the government for its concern for the needs of the locals in line with the 1Malaysia concept: People's First, Performance Now," Sarapin said.

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