Jeffrey Kitingan wants to implement sweeping land reforms when his party STAR comes to power in Sabah.
KOTA KINABALU: Opposition party, the State Reform Party or STAR has unveiled a masterplan for the administration of Sabah’s land which it hopes to swiftly implement when the party comes into power after the coming general election.
State chairman Jeffrey Kitingan said the masterplan’s priority is to respect and restore the rights of natives and their native customary lands and prioritise the giving of land to all deserving Sabahans.
He said the masterplan was based on a fundamental believe that Sabah land must be for Sabahans first.
“Under STAR or United Borneo Alliance (UBA), Sabah will have a new land masterplan that has three key objectives, that are firstly, reforms of the laws and administration relating to land and NCR; secondly, a more effective and efficient land administration and management; and thirdly resolution of land and NCR problems,” he told a packed press conference at the Tambunan Golf and City Club (TNGCC) house near here yesterday.
The maverick politician also revealed that the land masterplan would see the establishment of three important entities in land management. They are Sabah Land and NCR Commission, Sabah Native Land Foundation, and Sabah Land Tribunal.
He assured that under his government, land reforms would involve unequivocal and clear recognition of NCR, and that priority would be given to Sabahans first on all other land.
“Native land rights will be uplifted, strengthened and protected where a demographic mapping will be undertaken to identify and confirm native rights, NCR, land occupation and population.
“Category of land use in Native Titles (NT) would also be extended to include commercial, industrial and other uses and not just restricted to agricultural use,” he said, adding that he would de-centralise land administration from central-based to region-based where five regions would be created, to be headed each by a land director who in return reports to a director-general.
He said the Land and NCR Commission would be tasked with implementing and managing a New Land Policy and supervising the land administration in the state where power and authority would not be concentrated in the hands of one person only.
“In the present system, the authority and decision of the Land and Survey Director in alienating lands to anyone under Section 9 of the Land Ordinance cannot even be appealed as provided in Section 41,” he pointed out.
The Harvard scholar also assured that under him, NCR will be recognized first in land alienation after which Sabahans will be accorded priority, a stark contrast to the present policy of the Barisan Nasional state government in failing to recognize NCR and alienating land to companies against existing original settlers.
Recently at a seminar, Sabah Land and Survey Director, Osman Jamal, had disclosed that out of 2.1 million hectares of land available for alienation, the state had already alienated about 1.9 million hectares of which only 31% was alienated to natives and the other 69% to others.
Kitingan described the disclosure as a ‘wrong’ move by the government.
“It is wrong for the government not to give priority to natives and Sabahans in land alienation.
“This Land Policy will put a stop to the current land and NCR disputes where companies are given vast tracts of tens of thousands of acres leading to destruction of plants and crops of the original settlers and the destruction of homes and eviction of natives will be stopped,” he said.
Rent or lease only
He also revealed that for the first time, Sabah under STAR would only rent or lease, but not give, land to the federal government or federal agencies in order for land ownership to be retained by the autonomous state in perpetuity.
“We will also introduce that for lands alienated for agricultural purpose on commercial basis it would be required to include a 30% of the land area to be developed and owned by the Sabah Natives (Land) Foundation with provision for reimbursement of the development costs.
“The process of renewal of leases would be simplified and approved based on semi-automatic renewal basis and all 999-year leases would be given a same leasehold period upon conversion and not new 99-year leasehold titles,” he added saying that a periodical 10-15 years review of land premiums would be considered.
He also promised a sweeping system of recognition of NCR claims and owners, saying the current process of making natives claiming NCR via a land application (LA) or “permohonan tanah” (PT) will be changed as it may not be correct.
“Natives should not be made to “apply for land” where the issue is whether they are the legitimate NCR owners which will be determined by a new NCR Land Process (NLP).
“NCR ownership and claims will be determined via the NLP with a client charter of resolution by the NLP in six months for normal cases and 12 months for complicated cases,” he further said.
He further outlined that under a STAR-led state government, the Land and Survey Department that is to be put under the purview of Sabah Land Commission would be restructured into three departments namely Land Department, Survey and Mapping Department, and Valuation and Property Services Department.
“The Land Department would be responsible for land matters and collection of land revenues and other associated matters not specifically provided by other departments or authorities or agencies.
“Land administration under the Land Department will be de-centralised with a headquarters headed by a director-general who will also be the State Collector of Land Revenue (State CLR) and five regional centres headed by a regional director cum regional CLR each and assistant CLRs in the districts and sub-districts.
“The Survey and Mapping Department will be responsible for survey, mapping and other related services, and it would be entrusted with a State Demographic Mapping exercise which will identify and confirm the existence of native rights and NCR as well as to identify and determine the location of all residents.
“This task is also part of a Homeland Security, Immigration and Registration Masterplan to be announced.
“The Valuation and Property Services Department would be responsible for property valuation services, administration of land and properties of the state and other land and property related services,” he said while showing to the press and audience a complete chart of a restructured Land authority.
Streamlining land matters
Kitingan, who was extensively involved in modernising the state government in early 1980s while Harris Salleh was the Chief Minister, also explained that a high-powered Land and NCR Commission would take charge, streamline and oversee land administration in Sabah and to resolve all land issues, problems and related matters.
“The Commission’s task would include formulating the new Land Policy and other land policies from time to time, reviewing and recommending law reforms pertaining to land, NCR and land administration, and working with the Land Tribunal and assisting towards resolution of all land disputes and problems.
“The Sabah Native Land Foundation meanwhile would be entrusted to safeguard and act as guardians of native land rights as the natives being the indigenous people in Sabah are the owners of the land which existed before the British colonial times or the promulgation of the Land Ordinance and long before Malaysia was formed,” he said.
Kitingan also elaborated that the Foundation will hold lands on behalf of all natives in Sabah as well as the percentage allocation of land alienated for commercial agriculture purposes.
“It will also act as a safety net for native lands facing foreclosure and auctions and will buy at or before auction and or settle the outstanding debts and hold the native lands concerned and the owner will be granted the opportunity to buy-back or redeem the native land concerned. The Foundation will also assist natives in all matters relating to native lands.
“The Sabah Land Tribunal would be formed to administer justice in relation to land matters in Sabah and to adjudicate all land disputes and problems.
“It would be similar to what the industrial court, consumer tribunal and housing tribunal and will work in conjunction with the civil court system and the native court system,” he said explaining almost in details of his sweeping proposed land policy.