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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jeffrey: Sabah has failed natives

Why is the Sabah government refusing to comply with the 1963 agreement in relation to native land rights?

KOTA KINABALU: The government of Chief Minister Musa Aman must explain why it has failed to act as the legal guardian of the native people it represents.

Seeking an explaination, United Borneo Front (UBF) chairman Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said the government’s attitude was perplexing especially since it was agreed in 1963 that the natives must be given priority when deciding on the overall development of the state.

Jeffrey, a former PKR vice president, was commenting on the recurring issue of Native Customary Right (NCR) land affecting the natives in the state.

He said there was an urgent need for the state government to review all legislation pertaining to native customary rights (NCR).

“When land applications are given to big companies as opposed to native individuals genuinely seeking a livelihood in agriculture for meagre survival, the people are unable to comprehend the logic behind it.

“Natives must not be left behind and the government must resolve to follow the recommendation of our forefathers that native customary rights to occupy state lands are to be prioritised.

“A corporate body can represent a number of shareholders and directors who are not even remotely native. They apply for their own economic gain.

“The government should deliberate their decisions based on the premise that on Sept 16, 1963, they had assumed a de facto role of becoming the guardian of the native people of Sabah and Sarawak,” said Jeffrey in a statement.

Urgent solution needed

He expressed sympathy for the plight of natives in Kemabong who were jailed and fined in trying to defend their land rights as well as land applications going to corporate bodies in Kampung Luanti and Pitas, which were highlighted in the local newspapers recently.

“We need clearer legislation on NCR to avoid unnecessary confusion and court actions. The government should look into the compliance mechanism for the protection of Native Customary Rights.

“I hope the government think-tanks will find a solution for this issue as I am also aware that expanding families can cause land disputes and further expansion of lands if allocation was specifically given to individuals.

“We need more allocation, perhaps, for community titles for natives. It is not an easy issue but one we must resolve before the next general election.

“Looking at the Federal Constitution, our native rights are supposed to be protected by the monarchy, so this is a very important issue that must not be dismissed,” he stressed.

He noted that the recurring issue in the state is that natives, who are often already plagued with poverty, continue to risk their livelihoods and face tedious court actions to defend their rights to have access to land for their own subsistence to rear their own crops and livestock and to have access to timber to build their homes. - FMT

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