Land ownership tops native worries
Published on: Wednesday, August 14, 2019
By: Ottey Peter

KOTA KINABALU: Land ownership still tops as the main issue for the indigenous people in Sabah.

Addressing the issue at the forum during the State-level World Indigenous Peoples Day at Hongkod Koisaan, here,  Pacos Managing Director, Anne Lasimbang (pic) said that indigenous people should claim their rights and not apply for it.

She said that many of the land were ancestral land, cultivated by their descendants which does not have legal titles and is vulnerable to dispossession by more powerful actors.

“From the perspective of the law, we all have the rights but that’s it, we need to claim it and not apply for it. 

“We (indigenous people) still lack knowledge and awareness on our right and many do not realise that the ancestral form of land ownership lacks legal protection,” she said.

Anne stressed that documentation on the land is also important to prove that the land is owned by them as well as to safeguard their farming and cultures.

“Keeping good records is necessary and there is no law stating specifically how records are to be kept. All that is required is have it in writing for evidence sake, especially when applying for formal rights.

“Hence, documenting land occupation should be practiced over time so that our traditional culture and knowledge will remain forever,” she added.

Four people from Beluran, Tongkod, Pitas and Tuaran claimed that their lands were trespassed by outsiders.

They said that outsiders are mostly big corporations which have taken or exploited lands that they have been working on for a long time.

Industries such as logging and intensive agriculture bring pollution and disease to these lands and communities. 

Like many indigenous groups, the community there traditionally relied on forests for hunting, fishing and natural resources and the land also emphasised on their identity. 

Furthermore, with the destruction and deforestation of their ancestral land by developers, it cause worries to the community and they fear that they will no longer have rights over the place.

They also said they have applied for land titles but there were no action taken from the relevant authorities. 

In another case, the community leader in their village have given away some of the land to outsiders without the community’s knowledge or consent, especially when the land was gazetted by the Government.

This had caused anger among the community and they wonder why such action was allowed by the State Government.

Responding to the issue, the Sabah Affairs Council Chairman Datuk Sa’adilah Abdilah said the country has their own land law and generally if the land was gazetted for public use, such as land reserve or grazing, it cannot be arbitrarily used without  approval from the civil court.

He said that if the land was indeed gazetted, then the authority who  approved the use of the land is deemed wrong.

Sa’adilah also supported Anne that documentation is essential to confirm that the land was gazetted and there is a trustee to manage the land.

“The customary heads do not have the power to approve any land to outsiders and as far as I concerned, only the  State Land and Survey Department has the authority to do so. 

“Land formalisation procedures often involve difficult steps like writing technical reports or legal documents and it also take a long time to process, not just a day or two.

“They only act as trustees of the land,” he explained.


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