Tuesday, September 24

Masing: Stricter enforcement needed to stop FFB thefts

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Masing showing a copy of his winding-up speech before the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting.

KUCHING: Thefts of Fresh Fruits Bunches (FFBs) are still happening in the state even though various measures have been implemented to curb this crime.

Minister of Land Development Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing told the State Legislative Assembly yesterday that the government viewed this matter seriously, and the courts had passed judgments on several cases that did not favour Native Customary Rights (NCR) land claimants.

“Despite this, the thefts (of FFBs) have not stopped. Thus, I call on the relevant enforcement agencies to enforce the court rulings against those who are in contempt of court decision. I also hope those lawyers who are involved in these court cases would not take advantage of the situation for their own financial benefit.”

Masing cautioned that if FFB thefts continued unchecked, it would tarnish the image of the state and affect investor confidence.

He said among the root causes of the problem were native customary rights (NCR) claims within affected plantations, dissatisfaction with joint-venture returns, and demand for stolen fruits by some FFB dealers.

Various actions have been taken to curb these FFB thefts, he said in his winding-up speech.

“In July 2014, a joint operation known as ‘Ops Sawit Kenyalang’ was conducted by agencies such as Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), Immigration Department, the police,, Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, State Security Unit, and State Attorney General Chambers.

“MPOB has also frozen the issuance of new FFB dealers’ licence. A quota of two metric tonne per hectare per month had also been imposed to limit the sale of FFB by each smallholder.

“This is to prevent smallholders from selling excessive volume of FFB, which may have been stolen from affected plantations. In addition, palm oil mills and FFB dealers are required to submit monthly the list of their FFB sellers to MPOB for monitoring purposes.”

Meanwhile, to a point raised by Opar assemblyman Ranum Mina, Masing said as of March 31, 2015, of the 23 investors approved to develop NCR land in the state, 21 of them had successfully develop underutilised NCR lands owned by rural folk.

“These investors have established 30 joint-venture companies (JVCs) with the NCR landowners in 33 projects. So far, 77,176 hectares have been fully planted with oil palm under these JVCs.

“Up to March 31, 2015, RM 160.1 million has been paid by JVCs to the participating NCR landowners.”

Touching on a request by Engkilili assemblyman Johnichal Rayong Ngipa that the outstanding loans of the settlers in Skrang Settlement Scheme be written off and land titles issued to them, Masing said 798 out of the 1,363 settlers in the seven Settlement Schemes in the state had fully settled their loans.

“Many settlers have also started to pay their loans by instalments after being briefed by SLDB (Sarawak Land Development Board) officers. We have to recognise and appreciate the efforts of those who have fully paid their loans. By writing-off the loans for the defaulters, SLDB is putting itself at risk of claims for reimbursement by those who have fully and partially settled their loans. Exposing itself to such risks is highly detrimental to SLDB’s interest.

“As such SLDB has no immediate plans to write-off the loans.”

He pointed out that based on the agreement between the settlers and SLDB, the settlers were entitled to apply for land titles to the Land and Survey Department once their loans were fully settled.