15-year-old land dispute in Sabah finally settled


PETALING JAYA: A 15-year-old dispute between native customary rights (NCR) holders in Tongod, Sabah, large corporations and the Sabah government has finally been settled.

In a statement today, the Indigenous Peoples’ Network of Malaysia (Joas) revealed that High Court Judge Douglas Primus issued a court order sealing the settlement agreement between the parties, which had been decided on earlier this month.

“Today is a significant victory for Orang Asal in Malaysia. This settlement agreement acknowledges by law, yet again, the Orang Asal’s right to their NCR.

“Companies and governments should take note of this landmark case and respect NCR land to avoid the long and costly court process,” Joas secretary-general Jannie Lasimbang said without giving details of the agreement.

She said the closure was “bittersweet” as the legal system had burdened the poor who could not afford to sustain a long and costly court process.

“It has been a very pitiful and depressing experience for the villagers to have their case last this long.”
According to the statement, seven resident groups – Kampung Maliau, Kampung Minusoh, Kampung Liupampang, Kampung Namukon, Kampung Mananam, Kampung Napagang and Kampung Lanung, Kinabatangan – had sought relief against the defendants for land covering 21,819 acres.

The land title was initially issued to Hap Seng Consolidated Bhd in 1999 by the Lands and Surveys director, which was later cleared and planted with oil palm.

The dispute stretched 15 years, with 115 trial days, involving the residents and the defendants.

Apart from Hap Seng, the other defendants were Asiatic Development Bhd, Tanjung Bahagia Sdn Bhd, the Director of Lands and Surveys Sabah and the Government of Sabah.