Saturday, July 31

Hold regular dialogues to avoid disputes – Masing

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Tan Sri Dr James Masing

KUCHING: Plantation investors should make it a point to hold regular dialogues with native customary rights (NCR) landowners to ensure their investments were smoothing sailing and no disputes would arise.

Minister of Land Development Tan Sri Dr James Masing, who gave this advice, noted that sometimes disputes happened because the investors did not know the culture of the landowners.

“I’m sure the investors understand the culture of the industry but sometimes they do not understand the culture of the landowners. The landowners are new to it (industry) and therefore there must be regular dialogues,” he said at the signing of joint-venture agreements between Pelita Holdings Sdn Bhd and five investors here yesterday.

The agreements were meant for the development of NCR lands which had been approved by the State Task Force Committee to be turned into commercial palm oil plantations using the new concept of NCR land development.

The five investors are Palmraya Plantation Sdn Bhd, Sarikei Oil Palm Plantation Sdn Bhd, Cita Global Agro Sdn Bhd, Millionmore Sdn Bhd and Karisma Tradisi Sdn Bhd. Thus far, a total of 329,712 hectares of NCR land had been approved for development.

Masing said education played a vital role in creating better understanding among the rural community, especially when it involved something new to them.

Out of the 31 areas which his ministry had developed, it was only facing problem in one area. The problem concerned land ownership.

“The problem is that the majority of the NCR landowners agree to develop their lands but there is a small minority who are making a lot of noises.

“So, what I want to say here is that once you agree to sign you must carry on with the agreement. You cannot just pull out anytime you want because it involves legal matters,” he said.

Meanwhile, Masing expressed confidence that his ministry would meet the target of developing one million hectares of land. Thus far it had developed over 900,000 hectares of land, including NCR land.

He revealed that the areas under the ministry’s land bank did not have any encumbrance in them.

“Before we create the land bank, we make sure that the lands are clear of any encumbrance,” Masing explained.

On developing these lands, he said that on the average between RM10,000 and RM12,000 is needed to develop each hectare of NCR land, depending on the terrain.

“If the terrain is easy then it is slightly cheaper, if the terrain is difficult then it can be up to RM16,000 per hectare,” he said.

Masing also encouraged landowners to conduct survey on their lands so that the securities of the lands are assured.

“After the survey, you will know your land, who owns it and how big it is as it had already been recorded,” he said.

On a related matter, Masing urged the Labour Department to come out with a system to make it easier for foreigners to work in oil palm plantation, considering that the industry was facing labour shortage.

“I was told that we have about 10 per cent shortage of labour, which can be translated into the loss that we have. I was also told by the planters about the loss of RM1 billion annually due to non-harvested ripe fruits,” Masing lamented.