Wednesday, October 5

NCR land survey to help natives use ancestral heritage to uplift livelihood

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Peter Sibon

BY 2015, about 100,000 natives, comprising of mostly Ibans, Bidayuhs, Orang Ulus and to some extent Malays, will become lawful owners of some 1.5 million hectares of NCR land throughout the state.

The current exercise by the Department of Land and Survey to carry out perimeter survey on these NCR lands has already started and is expected to be completed by 2015.

The initiative by both the state and federal governments has brought smiles to the natives who have long yearned for their lands to be surveyed and be given titles so that they would get maximum benefits from their invaluable ancestral heritage.

At the same time, the exercise will be able to prevent land disputes especially in regards to the boundaries between NCR and state lands, and among the natives themselves.

According to the Minister of Land Development Dato Sri Dr James Masing, the exercise is a welcome move as it will finally allow land owners to decide what they really want to do with their land.

“But the utmost importance is for the people to finally own lands which have at times become controversial as NCR and state land is not an easy thing to determine.

“With the exercise, we could determine the rightful ownership of the estimated 1.5 million hectares of NCR land in Sarawak,” Masing told The Borneo Post here.

In many places that I have visited, NCR land owners expressed hope that their land would be surveyed and be given individual title in order for them to utilise them to the fullest, especially by participating in commercial plantations such as oil palm and rubber.

However, there were negative instances before the present exercise was carried out. This is because prior to the government’s issuance of land titles to those whose land were affected by development, the precious commodity had changed hands very fast, prompting some quarters to urge the government to stop issuing the land titles.

Thus, there was a big debate on whether the government should or should not survey NCR lands for fear that they would deplete fast!

However, after the land seminar in Kuching early last year, the federal government decided to carry out a study to determine whether such an exercise would bring benefits to the land owners or otherwise.

After several months of conducting intensive laboratory findings and feedback both in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, the federal government finally decided that NCR lands should be surveyed and be given titles as the natives were seen to lack the basic and necessary tools to
uplift their economic wellbeing.

Even as the exercise is midway, there are already some who have actually sold off their portions for fast gains.

If this trend is not checked and monitored properly, the owners will be the big losers, without them realising it.

It is a blatant disregard to the government’s justification to survey the NCR lands – to issue them land titles as a means to enable them obtain loans from banks and some government agencies for developing their lands.

The issuance of land titles to NCR land owners actually looks like a double edged sword.

If the owners were to think that getting the land titles will make them get rich fast, their future generation will live without land.

But on the other hand, if the owners are smart and plan well what they want to do with the titled lands, the exercise will not be futile but will in fact bring greater benefits to them and their future generation.

After all, if the estimated 1.5 million hectares were to be divided by the estimated 100,000 NCR land owners, on average each owner will get only 15 hectares!

And given the fact that older generations have bigger families, the 15 hectares will get even smaller after they are divided among the rightful heirs.

So the natives have to be extra smart and think ahead of what they want to do with their lands once they are issued with titles in the very near future.

Under the current exercise, the Land and Survey Department will gazette the lands under section 6 of the Sarawak Land Code after the perimeter survey, which means that a group of rightful owners will be given the titles. They will be given individual title after the lands are further surveyed under Section 18.

It is estimated that the whole exercise will be completed by 2015.

Four years from now is not a long time. When that day comes, the natives will find out that they are the custodians of an ancestral heritage which they must take care of for posterity, failing which they will end up becoming landless in their own land!