Saturday, February 26, 2011

Concern over rising rate of leasing out NCR lands

Stephen Tiong

Sarawak PKR information chief See Chee How said the opposition parties and human rights groups were concerned at the accelerated rate of leasing out NCR lands to plantation companies since last year.

“We want to find out the reasons for the acceleration of leasing out NCR lands to companies. Has it got to do with somebody who is about to leave politics?” he said when asked to comment on Sarawak Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management Awang Tengah Ali Hasan’s attack on the opposition and rights groups on the NCR land issues. “On the other hand, if you keep on grabbing NCR lands and giving it to crony companies, relatives and friends, what kind of public purpose is that?” he added.

See (top) said the NCR land issues will continue to be raised as long as the government keeps on giving provisional leases covering NCR lands to companies.

“What we are saying is correct that more and more cases will be filed in court as the government continues to issue provisional leases to plantation companies to encroach into the NCR lands.

“As you can see, we have won many cases against the government and plantation companies over the years,” said the NCR land lawyer.

“We are not talking about NCR lands being used for public purposes, but the NCR lands leased out to plantation companies by the government,” he said.

See said the government should allow the natives themselves to develop their land, not lease it out to plantation companies in the name of development.

He also hit out at Awang Tengah for denying that the government has not grabbed NCR lands from the owners and given it to plantation companies.

“Just look at the lands in Sempadi in Lundu district and Sebangan/Sebuyau areas in Simunjan being grabbed by the government, which later on leased it to companies linked to Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud’s family,” he said.

‘Opposition have nothing else to say’

Meanwhile, Awang Tengah accused the opposition and rights groups of continuing to harp on old NCR land issues just before and during the state election campaign.

“The accusations that the government is robbing the natives of their land are re-emerging because the opposition have nothing else to say,” he charged.

Awang Tengah, who is Minister of Public Utilities, reiterated that the government has never robbed the owners of the NCR lands, and added that if the government wants to make use of such lands for public purposes, they will be compensated.

“People must always remember we do not build roads for monkeys and wild boars.”

Condemning the opposition for politicising land issues again and again, Awang Tengah said the government was serious in addressing and solving NCR land matters.

“The opposition never stops recycling land issues during elections because they think they can hoodwink the people,” he said.

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“Why would the government want to grab the NCR lands from the owners? We acquire land for public purposes like development, roads and schools. It is for the benefit of the people.

“Besides, so long as the government does its job in stages, the opposition will be at a loss for what to bark (about),” he said, referring to the opposition’s criticism on the government’s move to complete the perimeter survey on NCR lands by 2015.

He said no limit had been imposed on the survey, which would be extended to cover all areas concerned.

The Land and Survey Department (LSD), he said, had identified 107 areas covering 386,000 hectares of NCR land for the survey this year.

Some RM30 million has each been allocated to conduct the survey in 2011 and 2012.

“We do not impose limits on the survey like the opposition has claimed. The survey is an ongoing effort to benefit all NCR landowners in the state,” he said after launching the Lands and Surveys’ Innovation and Integrity Day in Kuching.

He reminded NCR landowners that priority would not be given to those whose properties were linked to court cases.

“We do not want to interfere in any court process so those who have filed any case with the court will not be included in the perimeter survey list,” he said, adding that they must give full cooperation in order to get the survey completed as soon as possible.

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