Kota Kinabalu: Villagers of Kg. Mapat and Kg. Mapad in Paitan, Beluran, are furious over the destruction of crops on their lands and have vowed to never give in to those trying to take over their customary lands.
Village Security and Development Committee Chairman, Luking @ Luping Mungui said their lands, which had been their homes for at least five generations back were now under threat. He said a plantation company had started bulldozing and destroying the crops and fruit trees planted on this land despite continuous protest from villagers since 2007.
“Since 2006 until now, we have been complaining to the Department of Land and Survey objecting to the surveys of the company and other parties encroaching our customary lands,” he said.
Police reports had also been made in Beluran but no actions were taken, he claimed. Luking who was detained for one and a half day at the Beluran police station recently for allegedly being rude to the police, made another police report at the city police headquarters regarding the matter on Monday.
Speaking of his arrest by the police, he said it was unfair he was pulled up.
“Do I have to keep quiet and let our customary land fall into someone else’s hands? Do I have to keep mum and just look at them destroying our crops, our living and all our forefathers’ hard work? Do we shut up when they dig up our ancestors’ graves?” he asked. He also queried the said land grant acquired by the company, which up to this day has never been showed to the villagers even though various requests have been made.
“The police said they are the ones keeping the grant, and why is the grant with the police and not the land owners (if the grant really exists)?
“The police did show us a letter written in English, which they say is the land grant and ignored our request when we asked for a photocopy,” he said, adding that they could not understand the letter presented as it was written in English.
In this respect, a lawyer who accompanied the villagers in making their police report here, Datuk Kong Hong Ming said this is another tragedy on land grabs. The Tawau PKR chief said the villagers are crying out for justice and immediate actions to put an end to the uncertainty of the continuity of their communal livelihood. “Their ancestral lands are being encroached and destroyed under helpless protests. Their appeals to the authorities for help, justice and protection were denied.
“They were there before any form of government administration.
After years of settlement for at least six generations, they are now fighting to keep their ancestral land inherited for the survival of their families, livelihood and a space for the continuity of their present and future generations. “The government has acknowledged the existence of the village communities and their customary land by having appointed not less than six village chiefs over the years,” Kong said.
In this regard, he called for immediate investigations and actions to put an end to any impropriety and abuse of power of the authorities concerned.
People at Paitan should not be harassed anymore or forced to take the law into their own hands out of helplessness and desperation, as they too deserve justice and full protection under the law, he added.
“Until today, despite demands of villagers no one from both villages had seen any court order that prompted actions against the villagers in allowing the company to trespass their ancestral land and destroy crops planted,” he said.