After ending Bagahak dispute, Pitas villagers hope Shafie will solve their land woes

Harvested acacia trees being loaded onto a barge to be transported to a paper mill in Pitas, Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: Close to 10,000 villagers in Pitas are seeking the assistance of Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal to help them resolve their ancestral land claim dispute against Sabah Forestry Development Authority (Safoda).

Maklin Masiau, acting as spokesman for the residents from 54 villages in the district, said Safoda is a statutory body under the Chief Minister’s Department.

He said the residents were happy to read that Shafie had helped the 1,680 residents in the Bagahak Plantation to get the 6,800ha of land they had cultivated with oil palm since the 1970s.

Shafie had announced that Sawit Kinabalu, the company that runs the oil palm plantation there, would be compensated with another 18,000ha elsewhere.

Maklin said the Pitas residents were now hoping that Shafie will also give due attention to their dispute which has been dragging on for many years.

He said at times, the dispute had resulted in fights on the ground involving the villagers.

Maklin Masiau.

“A big portion of the land is still under dispute in the courts. Villagers have already spent thousands of ringgit to resolve this dispute in court,” he said in a statement here today.

The land in question had been gazetted for the planting of Acacia trees for timber by the Sabah government in the 1980s.

Maklin said the village population had since grown and the land should rightfully be given to them to develop as they saw fit.

Maklin, who was also the Warisan Pitas candidate for the 14th general election, hoped the state government could review the Safoda enactment to allow itself to venture into new fields.

He said this would at least allow the settlers to enter into a joint venture with Linaco Manufacturing that is now involved in planting of coconut trees.

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