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Demand answer to approved 17,000 acres
Published on: Sunday, May 21, 2017

By Harris Mohd. Salleh
OVER a number of years and with increasing frequency in recent times, many ex-Berjaya members and supporters in Tawau have asked me what has happened to their land applications for 15 acres which they have submitted through their YB at that time.

The YB was Datuk Hiew Nyuk Yin.

They told me that there were more than 1,000 applicants. They can remember that I have approved their applications for 17,000 acres at Tingkayu and wanted to know what has happened to their land after more than 30 years.

I feel obligated to issue this statement to clarify the misconception and clear my name because many of them have asked me directly whether I have taken their land or if I have a personal interest in the land as owner or shareholder. I have confirmed to them that I have approved their application. And I have absolutely no personal interest in this land, either personally or as shareholder, directly or indirectly.

I have inf0rmed them that as far as I could remember, sometime in the 1980s YB Datuk Hiew Nyuk Yin came to see me in the Chief Minister’s office and handed me a list of over 1,000 names. YB Datuk Hiew Nyuk Yin told me that list of names were members of Party Berjaya and were his supporters. YB Datuk Hiew Nyuk Yin also claimed that he could organise a company, take responsibility to develop the 17,000 acres and to arrange the necessary finance with cocoa planting for the 1,000 plus applicants.

I was convinced by him that this was the best way to alienate 15 acres of land to smallholders through a group and led by an Assemblyman. So I approved the applications submitted by YB Datuk Hiew Nyuk Yin and 1,000 plus people for about 17,000 acres at Tingkayu, Lahad Datu. I did not know what happened after the approval until after many applicants started asking about their land.

I have confirmed to them that I can remember having approved the alienation of 17,000 acres for more than 1,000 people with each applicant to be given 15 acres. It was never my idea to approve alienation for YB Datuk Hiew Nyuk Yin personally. It was Party Berjaya’s official policy to give 15 acres to every landless Sabahans.

Furthermore, there was no reason for me or any other Chief Minister to consider approving such a huge tract of land for a government official, especially for a “wakil rakyat”.

To their question as to who may have taken the 17,000 acres they have applied and their application have been approved by me, I have advised them to make an official search on Tingkayu Cocoa Products Sdn Bhd in the Registrar of Companies.

They can then direct their enquiry to the original shareholders of this company as to how these shareholders have got 17,000 acres which should have belonged to them.

To their queries on the earnings from piece of land which have been planted with palm oil, I informed them that I am not in a position to know exactly on the land in question but the rule of the thumb would be, taking into consideration of the high price of CPO a few years ago, 1 acre can on average, earn RM2000 per year.

17,000 acres of fully planted with oil palm with a mill, can give about RM34m gross profit each year.

Assuming over last 20 years, this piece of land would have produced RM680m gross profit for the owners.

I have asked the land applicants why they have not enquired about their applications much earlier.

Their reply was they have trust on YB Datuk Hiew Nyuk Yin. But after more than 30 years, they have become anxious and also state land is no longer available. What has added to their worries is that many of their children cannot find work. The 15 acres would have given them a good source of income.

Some have asked what can be done under the circumstances. My advice to them is for them to see their Wakil Rakyat first. The YB can organize them as a group and meet Datuk Hiew Nyuk Yin to work out some form of equitable settlement. Should this fail to produce result, they can seek legal recourse or seek the Government’s assistance to regain their land.

As a responsible man and in good faith, I have approved the land applications for 17,000 acres for these 1,000 plus landless Sabahans. I am prepared to testify to this fact in court.

In conclusion, I urge the 1,000 plus land applicants to seek assistance from their political representative at the UmnoTawau Division as most of them have become Umno members.

I wish to reiterate that I never have direct or indirect interest in the 17,000 acres of land personally and/or as a shareholder of the owning company

Harris Mohd. Salleh

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