‘Give us back our NCR land’
| February 25, 2011
Natives in Rumah Ranggong, Ulu Niah, intimidated by armed thugs last week are demanding the government reinstate the status of their land
KUCHING: An expected protest by natives, in Miri, against Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s land grab policies did not materialise.
Instead, it turned into a discussion when residents of Rumah Ranggong, Ulu Niah, met with government reps and a local oil palm plantation company, BLD Resources Sdn Bhd.
Harrison Ngau, the residents’ lawyer, said there was no protest as such and natives brought to the meeting table their concerns and demands.
The residents of Rumah Ranggong wanted their land be returned to them following the revocation of their native customary rights (NCR) land which was then declared as state land.
They made their demand during the meeting in Miri yesterday chaired by the Resident of Miri division, Antonio Kathi Gais. Others present included representatives from the Ministry of Land Development, Lands and Surveys Department and the Police department.
The status of the NCR land was revoked in 2002 and declared by the government as state land. The deed of rescission was rescinded in October 2008 and this act of the government sparked a bitter dispute between the longhouse folk and the company.
According Ngau, the residents of Rumah Ranggong, during the meeting, did not agree with the action of the government to suddenly classify their native customary rights (NCR) land that has been developed under the joint venture project since 2000 as state land.
“They therefore want to take back and manage their own NCR lands within the NCR joint venture project area,” Ngau said.
No dividends paid out
Since the launching of the project more than 10 years ago, the natives who hold 30% of the equity, have not only been kept in the dark on the accounts of the project, but have not been paid dividends as promised by the company.
The native shareholders accused the company of not only failing to honour their promise, but also lacking in transparency, said Ngau.
Kathi Gais called on both parties to settle their dispute amicably without resorting to violence and aggression. He said payment of dividends to the natives should be sorted out with the assistance of their respective lawyers.
On the question of status of the land, Kathi Gais said it would be referred to the higher authorities for a decision.
BLD Resources, meanwhile, said that the status of their land was a matter between them and the government.
BLD Resources representatives told the meeting that the company will pay the landowners dividends due to them, but it would be based on the performance of the company.
It also pointed out that they had also invited two persons from the longhouses to sit on its board as reps of the longhouses.
The meeting was arranged following a near clash between about 200 longhouse folk and about 100 gangsters sent by the company to threaten the natives last Saturday.
The gangsters were armed with machetes and explosives. The gang leader has been arrested and is expected to be charged under the Firearms Act.