by Tony Thien, Dec 5 20008
Owners of native customary rights (NCR) land, representing more than 220 people from two Iban longhouses in Ulu Niah, Miri, protested in front of the Kuching High Court yesterday.
Holding up placards, the group of about 100 expressed anger over the failure of a plantation company to honour its promises to them.
They had signed a joint venture in 1997 with KTS Group subsidiary Niamas Istimewa Sdn Bhd and Sarawak Land Development Board, a statutory body and a shareholder of Sarawak Plantations Bhd, to develop 2,508 hectares of NCR land for oil palm.
Under the Konsep Baru land development scheme, the landowners would hold 30 percent of the equity, the government agency 10 percent and a private investor 60 percent.
Spokesperson Changgai anak Dali said Niamas Istimewa Sdn Bhd had made an initial payment of 10 percent of the agreed sum.
However, he said it has not paid a single cent of the 30 percent by way of unit trust shares to the landowners over the last nine years, even though the harvested oil palm has brought returns to the joint-venture (JV) company.
The landowners have also learned that 10 percent of the equity of the JV company has since been sold to the private investor without their knowledge.
Changgai, 57, told Malaysiakini that the group had asked Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu and State Land Development Minister James Masing to intercede for them, but that there has been no result.
Complaint of encroachment
The landowners, who had travelled from Miri by bus, took the opportunity to mount the protest while in Kuching to lend support to Changgai who is facing a legal suit filed by another company.
Plantation company BLD Resources Sdn Bhd had applied for an injunction to prevent him from entering land under a provisional lease (PL), which it had obtained by the state government.
In 2005, the Land and Survey Department had issued the company a PL known as Lot 91 Sawai Land District, covering1,803 hectares, for oil palm cultivation.
Changgai is alleged to have trespassed on about 80 hectares within the area by planting it with food crops and oil palm.
The case was heard in chambers yesterday before Judicial Commissioner Abdul Hamid Sultan Abu Backer, who allowed an adjournment.
This was on application by the plaintiff’s counsel George Lo on the ground that the suit should include the Sarawak government which issued the PL.
Changgai is represented by Miri-based Orang Ulu NCR lawyer Harrison Ngau.
Other residents of Changgai’s longhouse will file a separate suit against the company for encroaching on what they claim to be NCR land within the PL area.
It was agreed to consolidate all the cases for hearing on Jan 13 next year.
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