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Will banks recognise strata titles for longhouses?

 | July 27, 2012

Is the Sarawak government's offer of strata titles to longhouses an attempt at misleading them into a "illusory sense of security" in view of the 13th GE?

KUCHING: The latest move by the state government to issue two longhouse with strata titles has brought on many unanswered questions, key among them is whether or not the commercial banks will recognise these ‘titles’ for loans and mortages and if this latest exercise was yet another political bid to mislead natives into an “illusory” sense of security.

A senior native customary right (NCR) lawyer here, Baru Bian said Housing Minister Abang Johari Tun Openg’s bid to issue strata titles for longhouses was also in contradiction with the statement made by the Land and Survey Department.

He said that in April 2010, when this matter was brought up, the Land and Survey Department said that the Strata Title Ordinance did not apply to longhouses where the issuance of title was concerned.

In that statement the Land and Survey Department had clarified that the Strata Title Ordinance did not apply to longhouses when it came to issuance of title.

Bian, who is also Ba’Kelalan assemblyman, said the Land and Survey department had in fact said that Sarawak Land Code title would be more appropriate for longhouses because strata title was not relevant for individual bilik (door) of the longhouses.

Describing Abang Johari’s decision as ‘absurd and impractical’, Bian said: “Much as I welcome any move to secure the interests of the NCR landowners, there are some questions about this latest development that need to be answered so that all parties are clear on the purpose and the actual benefits and the practicality of this exercise.

“The first question I have is whether the strata titles will be issued under the Strata Title Ordinance or under the Sarawak Land Code.

“It is to be noted that the Strata Title Ordinance applies to buildings five-storeys and higher.

“My second question is whether the banks have been consulted about the acceptability of these bilik (door) strata titled.

“Can they be used as collateral for bank loans in view of the fact that the minister had announced that individual titles can be accepted as such.

Don’t mislead natives

“In the hypothetical situation that a loan was actually taken out with a bilik title as collateral and the bilik was put up for auction as a result of non-payment, who would take up the offer?

“Certainly no outsiders would just buy the bilik and move in. The other longhouse inhabitants would also not do so as their adat will not allow it.

“My third question is: Does the issuance of bilik strata titles have any bearing on whether insurance companies are willing to insure longhouses against fire?”

Bian said there were many factors which determined whether or not insurance coverage will be extended to such bilik’.

“Will an individual title will override these considerations.

“The question of ownership and inheritance of a bilik is a non-issue, as there is an adat to provide for this.

“Let us not lose sight of the fact that what is really important to the indigenous people is security of the lands surrounding their longhouses, the temuda, the orchard or fruit groves, pemakai menua and pulau galau,” said Bian, who is Sarawak PKR chairman

He added that it would be “preferred and more meaningful” if the government could issue titles to the owners for these lands under Section 18 of the Sarawak Land Code.

“This would be of real value and would secure the interests of the people.

“Considering the fact that the issuance of bilik titles will be of no real benefit to the longhouse dwellers, and taking into account the timing of this announcement, the more cynical amongst us will naturally question the motive behind this exercise.

“The indigenous people must not be misled into an illusory sense of security for political purposes,” said Bian, who is also the Ba’Kelalan assemblyman.


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