Thursday, October 29, 2015

Lawas natives yet to see a single sen over Petronas gas pipeline

BY SHERIDAN MAHAVERA

Petronas had assured Lawas indigenous villagers that gas is inert and not dangerous but there are warning signs near the pipeline running over their customary land. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Seth Akmal, October 29, 2015.

Petronas had assured Lawas indigenous villagers that gas is inert and not dangerous but there are warning signs near the pipeline running over their customary land. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Seth Akmal, October 29, 2015.
In the highlands of Lawas indigenous villagers have complained they have not being paid for their ancestral lands which they gave up several years ago for a mammoth Petronas gas pipeline even as the Sarawak government promises to recognise tribal claims.
Lun Bawang landowners in Kampung Long Luping said they have either been partially paid or not at all for land taken for the pipeline, which made the news last year after a section of it blew up.
Sakai Libang, 54, said the problem was not Petronas but the Land and Survey Department.
The agency determines whether a certain plot is considered ancestral land, known as native customary rights (NCR) land. 
Under Section 5 of the Sarawak Land Code, the department can acquire land for public purposes. If an individual believes that the land belongs to him because it is tribal land, then they would have to file an application declaring that the land is his NCR.
The Long Luping residents The Malaysian Insider met alleged the department dismissed their claims and said the land belonged to the government.
When Petronas met with the villagers in 2000 to explain the project, the oil and gas giant promised to compensate them provided that the Sarawak government verified that it was NCR land, said Libang.
“I had to spend my own money to go to Kuching in 2012 to plead my case with the land survey office.
“But the land office said this is state land. 
“But I have the documents, the village chief’s and penghulu’s letters, to prove it is my land,” Libang told The Malaysian Insider recently.
Such trips can be expensive for farmers like Linbang. It takes at least one flight to get to Sarawak’s capital – the MAS Wings service from Lawas to Miri. From Miri, it is an arduous 10-hour bus ride to Kuching.
Another Long Luping resident Peter Dison, 33, said he was only paid for half of the 1.9km he had to give up for the pipeline.
“The last payment was in 2012. After that, there were no more payments,” Dison said.
According to the residents, Petronas and the land department negotiated for them to be paid 80 sen per square foot.
Libang has gone to Kuching three times to plead his case with the Land and Survey Department. The agency has until this day, not declared whether his claims are genuine.
Gas ‘not dangerous’
The 512km Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline (SSGP) was built in 2013 to transport natural gas harvested off the coast of Kimanis, eastern Sabah, to the port town of Bintulu, Sarawak.
For much of its length, it meanders through some of the most pristine jungles in Sabah and in Sarawak, on land owned by natives.
A section of the pipeline between Lawas town and Kampung Long Sukang, and 10km from the nearest village, was destroyed by an explosion which occurred at 2am on June 10 last year, according to The Star.
Large swathes of an oil palm estate next to the destroyed section of the pipeline are still singed and blackened by the explosion.
A Petronas statement on the incident said no injuries or casualties were reported and the incident did not affect any of the communities along the pipeline.
Another Kampung Long Luping resident Balang Laya joked that when the pipeline was being built, Petronas had assured residents that the gas was inert and that it was not “dangerous”. None of the villagers believed Petronas.
“After they built it, they put all these signboards next to the pipeline which read ‘danger’. So why did they tell us it wasn’t dangerous in the beginning?” Laya asked.
In the highlands of Lawas, villagers have to travel up to half a day to reach Kuching, the state capital. They are fighting over non-payment for a Petronas pipeline running over their customary land. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Seth Akmal, October 29, 2015.
In the highlands of Lawas, villagers have to travel up to half a day to reach Kuching, the state capital. They are fighting over non-payment for a Petronas pipeline running over their customary land. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Seth Akmal, October 29, 2015.
Keeping a promise
When Tan Sri Adenan Satem took over as chief minister 17 months ago, he promised to consider and respect NCR claims.
Linbang and the others whose lands got caught up in the gas pipeline project have also heard this pledge but said their case would be a true test of whether Adenan meant what he said.
They and more than 20 others from about five villages last year filed a case with the civil court to get the Land Department to recognise their NCR claims, said their lawyer Baru Bian.
The villagers are essentially appealing against the department’s decision to reject claims that the land was NCR when the properties were taken over for the pipeline.
“It will now go to arbitration but the court has not given us a date yet. Once there is a date we will go to trial and have to prove our case,” said Bian, who is also Ba Kelalan assemblyman.
In recent years the courts have awarded NCR rights to Sarawak natives in claims brought against the state government and private companies.
In one such case, 278 Iban families in Ulu Sebangan and Sebuyau in Simunjan district last April won a case granting them NCR rights to 3,305ha of rainforest, according to a Malaysiakini report.
The state government had awarded two companies, Quality Concrete Sdn Bhd and Royal Billion Sdn Bhd, a license to log that part of the rainforest.
The Court of Appeal ordered the companies to pay compensation and damages to the Iban who claimed that logging destroyed their fruit trees, hunting grounds and polluted their source of drinking water. – October 29, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/lawas-natives-yet-to-see-a-single-sen-over-petronas-gas-pipeline#sthash.4wOaMsdj.dpuf

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