Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sabah Native Rights Eroded,No Thanks To Sabah Government?

Datuk Kong Hong Ming (left) today urged the State Government and Department of Lands & Surveys to give priority and act immediately to settle land ownership claimed by the natives of Sabah who are losing their ancestral land and land acquired by native customary rights (NCR) in stead of offering lip-service.

According to Kong, native customary right in the form of customary tenure, even without any document of title, confers a permanent heritable and transferable right over occupancy and use of land under our system of land law.

In his statement today, Kong disputed the statement of the Director of Lands & Surveys Sabah, Datuk Osman Jamal claiming that the State Government and Department of Lands & Surveys never neglected their duty to protect the rights and privileges of the native community in terms of land ownership.

“His statement was misleading and did not reflect the predicament encountered by the native community in Sabah claiming for land ownership. On the contrary, what is really happening is that the natives of Sabah have been and are losing their ancestral land rapidly to the extent that many natives are now landless people, whether knowingly or otherwise” Kong responded.

Kong said, “Either the Director did not know the present predicament and plight of the native community in Sabah or he intended to mislead the people and the BN political leaders in believing that all is well insofar as the land rights and ownership of the Sabah natives are concerned.”

“To understand the dire situation faced by the natives in Sabah in respect of their appeals for help due to encroachment and loss of ownership in land, the Director could verify with the State Attorney General Chambers and all District Land Offices where there are a large numbers of court cases and land disputes outstanding and accumulating.” Kong said.

“If the BN State Government and its leaders respect and protect the land rights and ownership of the indigenous people of Sabah, the State Government especially the Chief Minister as minister in charge should have the political will and immediately direct the Department of Lands & Surveys to conduct the settlement exercise to identify and settle all NCR lands in the State by issuing individual and communal land titles as provided in the Sabah Land Ordinance.” Kong suggested.

“The fact that the State Government and Lands & Surveys Department had now given a speedy approval letter for the land alienated for the Mazu statue and temple speaks for itself since it was only made possible by personal intervention by Sabah Chief Minister (right) himself in the unusual circumstances.” Kong said.

Kong disclosed, “The promising picture painted by the Director was merely a good public relation exercise by the Director which did not reflect the real sentiment of the natives of Sabah who are helplessly suffering from the massive loss of their ancestral land due to indiscriminate alienation of huge acreages of land by the Chief Minister Department and Lands & Surveys Department to many large corporations including government agencies, which subsequently entered into joint ventures with private corporations.”

“The painful truth is that the Sabah natives have been crying out loud for the past 10 years for the massive loss of their ancestral land and land acquired by native customary rights (NCR) which were continuously encroached, destroyed and taken away from them through alienations by the State Government.” Kong said

Kong said “The indigenous people of Sabah (left) had voiced out their plight and frustration to the State Government in many occasions. But their voices were never heard or respected.”

“Sometime in 2006 and again in February 2008, not less than 32,352 natives from 18 districts of Sabah had voiced out their grievances and came out appealing to the government to respect, defend and protect against encroachment of their ancestral land for a collective area of 339,984 acres in 18 kampungs in the State. More than 100 representatives from 18 districts led by Galus Ahtoi of PACOS (Partners of Community Organization) gathered at Kota Kinabalu and jointly submitted a memorandum to the Head of State of Sabah, Sabah chief minister, Suhakam, State Secretary, State Attorney General and the Director of Lands & Surveys himself.” Kong said.

“Despite their protests and appeals, nothing was done by the State Government in taking step to preserve, protect and respect their land rights and ownership. On the contrary, huge acreages of state land to the extent of 20,000 acres to 60,000 hectares per land title were alienated to powerful corporations without any due consideration to the existing rights in of the natives’ ancestral land and NCR land that they and their forefathers have occupied and cultivated for generations.”

“One of the major causes for the massive losses of ancestral land rightfully belonging to the natives was due to the excessive time-consuming process practiced by Lands & Surveys Department between land application and issuance of land title. In many cases, it could take as long as more than 30 years and still waiting. Another major cause of concerned is that natives have to compete with big corporations for land due to heavy demands for agricultural land for oil palm plantations. Due to the lack of financial resources, natives always lose out and give up at the end.” Kong said.

“Over the years, it is generally perceived by ordinary citizens especially natives of the remote villages that the State has been more readily to alienate large acreages of land to selected individuals or corporations whose primary or sole objective is out to amass land for wealth accumulation rather than for basic need or livelihood. At the same time, land applications and alienation can be such a complex procedure and lengthy process for natives who are in dire need of small acreages of farmland to support their basic livelihood and survival. It is rather common in Sabah that natives have been waiting for more than 30 years for document of title to the land that they applied. One of those many cases is the natives in Tongod of Kinabatangan.” Kong said.

“Some 24,000 acres were alienated to a company in 1998 in a single land application submitted in 1997 whereas Tongod natives had applied much earlier for 5 to 15 acres per family since 1975 and have been there as a village community comprising of 12 kampungs for not less than 7 generations. They and their forefathers were owners of the land by adat or custom long before the British Chartered Company or at least well before the formation of any state government. The State Government through Lands & Surveys Department in one single approval took away their land without any due regard to the people’s existing rights and their livelihood and survival.” Kong said.

“Never ignore the fact that natives of Sabah were often the victims of uncontrolled logging activities and indiscriminate land development schemes including by Government land agencies. Public officials so often seized opportunity to limit, delay, disregard and reject claims by native community based on NCR or their land applications submitted earlier in time but instead to facilitate by giving preferential treatments to applications later in time to selected powerful individuals and corporations.

“Depriving customary land of the natives can be construed as depriving their livelihood, which is unconstitutional in violation of Article 5 of the Federal Constitution that guarantees that no person shall be deprived of his life which includes the rights to livelihood except in accordance with law. Further, the taking away or extinguishments of customary land from native or alienation of customary land without compensation was discriminatory, unfair and unconstitutional thereby violated Article 8 of the Federal Constitution that guarantees equality before the law. Moreover, the taking away or extinguishments of customary land from natives or the alienation of customary land without compensation was unconstitutional on the ground that it is in violation of Article 13 which guarantees that no person shall be deprived of his property without adequate compensation and save according to law.

“The State and its administrators have a general fiduciary and constitutional obligation to protect the welfare of the natives and a specific obligation to protect and preserve the native customary and proprietary rights in land. In the premises, they must act for the benefits of the said native community as the beneficiaries. Any deprivation of customary land belonging to the native communities and their future generations is to deprive them of their sources of food, water, rivers, medicines, wildlife, other forest produce which the said native communities need and are dependant upon for their livelihood and daily sustenance.

“Now by his own admission, the Director has finally conceded after all these years that his Department and State Government are incapable of handling the many land applications submitted by natives with some 265,000 remaining outstanding, which is very alarming as the backlogs have accumulated since 1975 until now and continuing.

“Based on their working capacity of 16,000 applications per year, the future and prospect of obtaining native land rights and ownership is indeed very bleak for the Sabah natives.

“Street demonstration is never our culture, especially for Sabah indigenous people. The native community in Sabah clearly has a legitimate claim against the State Government for neglects and breach of duty in defending protecting and preserving the rights and interests of the native community in Sabah” Kong said.

“The natives of Sabah are running out of time. It is now or never. In reality, the natives are not only demanding respect for their land rights and ownership of property which were legally belonging to them, they are in fact preserving, defending and protecting their livelihood, survival as well as culture, tradition and custom.” Kong said.


  1. what happened to KDM based component parties in BN? May be the PBS' silent approach is at work at again. KDM community can look elsewhere and forget about PBS, UPKO, PBRS and UMNO if you want to protect and maintain your land, livelihood and survival. Save yourself and support PKR.

  2. Osman Jamal is protecting the right of natives, but the natives from indonesia.

  3. Faham faham lah. Tidak ada RM, tidak ada kelulusan.

  4. Ucapkan taniah kepada pemimpin PKR yang begitu komited untuk perjuangan hak orang asal dan hak tanah adat. Tetap sokong PKR.

  5. Sure, no money no talk. Lands & Surveys is all about money. What is native land right to Lands & Surveys and BN? They believe only in money.

  6. Like many other dusun, I am working in Kuala Lumpur. I felt so ashamed whenever west malaysians asked me why the people of Sabah helped BN alive when BN had milked us dry for so many years. I donot know what to sat to them. I can only ask my parents and friends never never vote for Bn again.