Land in Sarawak comes directly under Chief Minister Taib Mahmud and the recent refusal by a state department to sanction a federal ministry project has stoked curiosity.
The Department of the Land and Survey which is allegedly ‘freely’ issuing provisional leases (PLs) on native customary rights (NCR) lands for large scale oil palm plantations in Sarawak has apparently refused to sanction a similar federal project by the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities.
According to a puzzled senior officer, who declined to be named, a recent meeting between the two parties had to be aborted after the state Land and Survey Department refused to allow the ministry to help natives plant oil palm on their NCR land.
“During a meeting last week to discuss applications from the native landowners for such a scheme, officials from the Land and Survey were strongly against the scheme involving NCR land.
“They said it is difficult to identify whether the land is NCR land or a state land.
“This is puzzling because the Land and Survey Department easily issue provisional leases to huge oil palm companies for them to plant oil palm on NCR land often without the knowledge of the landowners,” the senior officer told FMT.
The official said that the Land and Survey Department claimed that identifying NCR land was difficult.
“But the other officers argued saying identification of NCR land was not difficult as the Tuai Rumah (longhouse headmen) have the authority to determine such lands.
“But the Land and Survey Department officers refused to give in, so the meeting was aborted,” added the senior officer who added that the meeting was also attended by officials from the State Planning Unit, Ministry of Agriculture and the Malaysian Palm Oil Board.
However, those present agreed that the matter should be brought to the attention of Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu Anak Numpang, who is the Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture.
“The meeting wanted Jabu to discuss the issue with Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, who is also the Minister of Resource Planning and Environment,” said the officer.
The Department of Land and Survey is under Taib’s ministry.
Taib’s government policy is that “all untitled lands including NCR land belong to the state”.
The meeting was supposed to discuss some 900 applications involving some 5,000 hectares of land from NCR land owners for the smallholding scheme. Each applicant should be entitled to have a subsidy of RM7,000 per hectare up to a maximum of five hectares.
This subsidy is to be used by the applicants to finance land clearing, planting and planting materials.
The subsidy plan which started some time ago was for the replanting of oil palm by small holders.
The Sarawak’s Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture had applied for such a plan to be extended to Sarawak in order to plant oil palm in native customary rights land under the NKEA programmes.
The Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities had agreed to channel the funds amounting to millions of ringgit through MPOB which acts as a supervising agent to ensure the success of the scheme.
But the MPOB has limited manpower, so it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Sarawak Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture to undertake the programmes.
The aim of the subsidy plan is help the natives of Sarawak to plant oil palm on a smallholding approach as part of an effort to eradicate poverty among the rural dwellers.
It is also part of the NKEA (national key economic area) programmes to enhance the higher income of the people.