Stop NT land deals via nominees

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    KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Native Land Owners and Developers Association (Sanloda) Chairman Datuk Seri Clarence Bongkos Malakun (pic) said any transaction where Native Title (NT) lands are sold directly or indirectly – including through trust deeds or nominees to a non-native – should be stopped.

    He said this was necessary in order to prevent any more land disputes particularly involving NT lands. He was referring to a letter that appeared in Express Forum on Sunday titled “State Govt Must Stop This Land Scandal” which highlighted how Sabah’s natives were being dispossessed of their lands through sublease of up to 90 years, in some cases, through slick agreements of public listed companies and even cash-rich foreigners like Chinese nationals.

    “We need to defend and bring awareness to natives Sabahan to keep their NT lands for their future generations. Otherwise, we are also guilty of selling our rights on NT lands. “NT lands have been alienated specially for the qualified and bona fide natives by the Government since the British Colonial Administration. This is a British legacy and a unique gift to the natives of Sabah.

    “We are very thankful that this has been continued by the Sabah Government and should be maintained forever in order to preserve the special status of NT lands for the benefits and use of all Sabah natives, irrespective of their cultures or religions,” he said.

    Malakun said there were too many incidences of non-natives and others from outside Sabah, especially from Sarawak, making use of local natives as nominees to acquire native lands in Sabah.

    The modus operandi is through using staff to acquire the land and hold it in trust through a side agreement until such time the land is converted to Commercial Lease (CL) or dispose of it after planting oil palm, for a higher prize.

    In both instances, the native is left with crumbs while the indirect owner of the land through sublease makes a killing. “This is an illegal ‘racket’ and must be stopped immediately. I seek and appeal to all the natives and Local Authorities who are aware of such racket to help put a stop into these activities, immediately,” he said.

    Unlike in Semenanjung Malaysia, he said the prohibition of transfers of Malay Reservation Lands to non-Malay was very strict. “For instance, you cannot go to Kelantan, Selangor or most States in Semenanjung to buy ‘Malay Reservation Land’ even though you are a Malay or Native from Sabah. “Article 89 (6) of the Federal Constitution 1957 defines “Malay reservation” as land reserved for alienation to Malays or to natives of the State in which it lies; and “Malay” includes any person who, under the law of the State in which he is resident, is treated as a Malay for the purposes of the reservation of land. “The term “Malay” is defined differently in each State’s Malay reserve laws. In Article 160(2) of the Federal Constitution 1957, “Malay” is defined as “a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom and— (a) was before Merdeka Day born in the Federation or in Singapore or born of parents one of whom was born in the Federation or in Singapore, or is on that day domiciled in the Federation or in Singapore; or (b) is the issue of such a person,” he said.

    In Sabah, Section 17 (1) and Section 64 (1) of the Land Ordinance (Sabah Cap. 68) prevents non-native from dealing with native land but on the other hand the definition of native in Sabah were too broad, he said.

    Under Section 2 (1) of the Interpretation (Definition of Native) Ordinance (Sabah Cap. 64), native is defined as “either – (a) any person both of whose parents are or were members of a people indigenous to Sabah; or (b) any person ordinarily resident in Sabah and being and living as a member of a native community, one at least of whose parents or ancestors is or was a native within the meaning of paragraph (a) hereof; or (c) any person who is ordinarily resident in Sabah, is a member of the Suluk, Kagayan, Simonol, Sibutu or Ubian people or of a people indigenous to the State of Sarawak or the State of Brunei, has lived as and been a member of a native community for a continuous period of three years preceding the date of his claim to be a native, has borne a good character throughout that period and whose stay in Sabah is not limited under any of the provisions of the Immigration Act, 1959/63 [Act 155.]

    Provided that if one of such person’s parents is or was a member of any such people and either lives or if deceased is buried or reputed to be buried in Sabah, then the qualifying period shall be reduced to two years; or (d) any person who is ordinarily resident in Sabah, is a member of a people indigenous to the Republic of Indonesia or the Sulu group of islands in the Philippine Archipelago or the States of Malaya or the Republic of Singapore, has lived as and been a member of a native community for a continuous period of five years immediately preceding the date of his claim to be a native, has borne a good character throughout that period and whose stay in Sabah is not limited under any of the provisions of the Immigration Act, 1959/63 [Act 155].”

    “As the current definition of “native” is too wide and general, Sanloda wish to appeal to the State Government to specify more clearly and amend the definition once and for all in order to quash all doubts by those concern,” he said.

    At the same time, Malakun said since it is a known fact that non-native are trying to use native as a ‘nominee’ for NT land acquisitions, Sanloda appeals to all natives not to be influenced or used and manipulated into these practices as they were indirectly facilitating the loss of NT lands to non-natives.

    According to him, Section 17 (1) provides that “all dealings in land between non-natives on the one hand and natives on the other hand are hereby expressly forbidden and no such dealings shall be valid or shall be recognised in any court of law” save for very few exceptions as provided for in the Land Ordinance (Sabah Cap. 68). Meanwhile, Malakun said Sanloda hoped a fair and equitable solution on the land disputes at Kg Malinsou, Kg Wayan and Kg Sinurai, in Ranau will be done in the good interest of all parties involved. He empathised on the welfare and livelihood of the local natives as the crops that they had spent their whole life planting to feed themselves and their family were affected. Nonetheless, Sanloda believed that the State Government under Datuk Seri Musa Aman as Chief Minister is always sympathetic and fair to the native people of Sabah as proven by the issuance of Communal Titles for the native people. Malakun also called on Sabahan natives to be a life member of Sanloda.

    Among the association’s objectives was to assist and advise members and native land owners on the positive transformation of their native lands, to enable members and native land owners to leverage their NT landed assets to enhanceand generate better economic benefit. “This is in line with the Government’s transformation agenda in raising the peoples’ standard of living and increasing the per capita income of all Malaysian,” he said.

    More information on the association could be obtained by contacting secretary general, Datuk Stephen L. Sondoh at 013-8658333 or assistant secretary general, Petrus M Jikiun at 019-8529299.

    Source: Daily Express