KOTA KINABALU: A Sabah opposition leader has accused the current Sabah government of misleading the people on the issue of communal titles which the state had claimed will be abolished soon.
Sook assemblyman Ellron Angin said in place of the state-planned communal titles, the Sabah government had promised to issue individual titles for the natives.
However, he noticed the individual titles promised by the new administration are almost identical to the communal titles issued by the previous government.
“Three aspects are identical, namely, the transfer of the title is prohibited except by inheritance or succession; sub-division, sublease and change of title is prohibited; and no rights or powers granted by individual title can be transferred by appointment of power of attorney or other means.”
Angin said the indigenous people didn’t want communal title land based on native customary rights (NCR) to be abolished.
“The title cannot exclude people who have already proven their right to be there based on NCR,” he said in a statement here today.
Crux of problem
Angin pointed out that under the law, NCR-based communal titles places the onus on the community for any development although the government can come in if its support is required.
The crux of the problem, he said, is Section 76 of the Land Ordinance which considers the indigenous people as beneficiaries of communal titles and not as owners under NCR.
He noticed that the state government had also glossed over the fact that besides NCR-based communal grants, the state-planned communal title is another existing category.
“The issue of state-planned communal titles appears to have been kicked further down the street,” he said.
NGOs like Partners of Community Organisations in Sabah (Pacos Trust), which only support communal titles based on NCR, want these state-planned communal titles abolished.
Interestingly, Angin noted that the state government had made vague promises that communal grants will be abolished in stages throughout Sabah from December this year.
“Joint ventures involving state-planned communal titles may use ‘unscrupulous tactics’ to get indigenous people to sign over their rights for a paltry sum.
“Receipts issued for these sums can then be misrepresented as ‘acknowledgement’ of the terms and conditions of joint ventures ‘pledged to help eradicate poverty’.
“If so, such so-called joint ventures may be a new form of land grabbing as villagers can be excluded from their own land,” he said.
He also expressed worry that many of these so-called joint ventures may fail to conserve water catchments and pollute rivers which are the main source of water for villagers.
Angin said, currently, existing joint ventures involving 51 communal grants may be permitted to continue, subject to still unspecified terms and conditions and/or subject to renegotiations.
“Again, it’s not clear what these re-negotiations will entail. The communal grants involving joint ventures include 24 with government-linked companies (GLCs). Another 27 joint ventures are with private companies,” he said.
There are 96 communal grants covering 152,268.23 acres (60,907ha) of land in Sabah involving 13,789 beneficiaries in 271 villages in 15 districts.