Houses mushrooming at Padas river bank
Published on: Friday, October 15, 2021
By: Sidney Skinner
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Children can be seen playing in this house which is being built along the side of the Padas River in Beaufort.
THE Beaufort Land office is checking on the status of some land along the Padas River where a potential squatter colony is forming.

A spokesman for the Assistant Collector of Land Revenue (ACLR) said a preliminary investigation, carried out by Land personnel earlier this week, confirmed the presence of houses on a section of the riverbank in a Beaufort village.

“The District surveyor is in the midst of trying to determine if the encroachment involves state land or a riparian reserve,” he said.

“The ACLR will demand that the property be vacated, if the former is true, and notices to this affect will be served to the squatters.”

“The encroachers will be given a grace-period to move off the land. If they fail to comply then legal proceedings will be initiated.

“On top of this, a sign will be placed on the property to indicate that it belongs to the government.” 

In the case of the latter, the responsibility for this eviction would fall to the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID), according to him.

He said the District Officer (DO) would be kept apprised of the ACLR’s findings as he sat as the chairman of the “Jawatankuasa Setinggan (Squatter Committee)”

He said the ACLR was authorised, under the Land Ordinance, to have the occupants removed from the land.

“The local authorities have to step in to dismantle any illegal structures, including houses, which have been put up,” he said.

“Demolition notices can be issued under the District Council’s Building Bylaws.” 

The spokesman was responding to a Beaufort resident’s misgivings about what was transpiring on the riverside near Kg Lumatai.

He noticed that more and more houses had come up on the property over the past few weeks.

The individual suspected that they might have been constructed illegally as he had heard that the land belonged to the government.

He provided Hotline with the location of these goings-on. This information was forwarded to the ACLR’s office, Council and DID.

A Council spokesman gave his assurance that the agency would have the illegal structures demolished once the eviction notices had been served.

“Our enforcement officers made a check of the river bank last week and confirmed that there were persons living illegally on the land,” he said on October 14.

“These observations have been brought to the DO’s attention. 

“We hope to mount an ‘Ops Bersepadu (joint-operation)’ with the DID, ACLR and Police to crack down on what is transpiring on this property as soon as possible.”

He said the Council was reluctant to do this on its own.

“We have to be cautious in how we handle this matter for the safety of our staff. 

“We do not know much about the encroachers. Our personnel might be put at risk if these individuals turn out to be part of an Abu Sayyaf group.”

A DID spokesman said the agency’s reserve extended over a 50metre-space from the edge of the river.

“No structures are supposed to be built on this property so as to cut down on the likelihood of erosion taking place. This could destabilise the riverbank.

“Our personnel have noted that there are people living on the side of the Padas River, in the village.”

He said the Department intended to enlist the assistance of the District Squatter Committee to deal with this problem.

MAD, who lives in Kg Lumatai, said he had seen foreigners walking onto the village road from the direction of the river.

“I first noticed this in the mid-September. Lately, I see more and more of these individuals accessing the area,” he said.

“Their houses are mushrooming on the river bank and I fear that the situation may get out of hand.”

He said some of his neighbours had expressed their concerns about this with those in charge of the village.

“They voiced their misgivings about these structures to the Village Chief, as well as the Security and Development Committee Chairman but, so far, the problem still persists.”

Mad related what was happening with a friend who was staying in Taman Foh Sang nearby.

“My friend encouraged me to make the local authorities, including the Council, aware of my worries. 

“He said there was a possibility that the squatter colony might be a hiding place for foreign terrorists.” 


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