KUCHING: Priority will be given to previous landowners in Serian if the state government decides to sell a piece of native customary rights (NCR) land, which was surrendered for the building of SMK Serian 2, a Sarawak minister said.
It was reported that Kampung Seroban villagers in Serian had given up the 16ha piece of land for the building of the new school in 2005.
The new school was to resolve the overcrowding issue at SMK Serian 1. It was supposed to have 36 classrooms, hostels to house 1,000 students and teachers’ quarters.
The state government had paid RM1.25 million in compensation to the landowners. However, plans to build the school could not proceed after a stream was found passing underground.
Kampung Seroban villagers had urged the state government to return the land to those who had given it up.
Sarawak Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Michael Manyin said according to the law, the original landowners must be given priority if the land is to be sold off.
“But the previous owners will have to pay for it. It cannot be free.”
The value of the land would be determined by the Land and Survey Department, he added.
Currently, the land belongs to the state government as it was never fully transferred to the federal government, he said.
Manyin said the school would have been built there long ago if the Department of Minerals and Geoscience had not found out that the site was unsafe due to the presence of the underground stream.
“When the Barisan Nasional (BN) government was still in power, I was directed by the then education minister to find a new site for the building of the school. However, there is now a change in the government and we’re facing a bit of a problem today,” he said.
Manyin said the education ministry had applied for a new site to build the new school from the Director-General of the Department of Lands and Mines on Oct 15.
“We have not received any further news on this matter,” he said.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Manyin had accused the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government of keeping silent over the delay in the construction of SMK Serian 2.
Serian DAP chief Edward Andrew Luwak said it was unfair for Manyin to blame the PH government over the delay.
“The blame should go to the previous BN government, of which GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) was a member. The Pakatan Harpan-led federal government took over the government just over 18 months ago,” he said.