Wednesday, February 19

Villagers want land for proposed school back


KUCHING: Folks of Kpg Seroban, Serian are urging the government to return their land that they surrendered as the site of SMK Serian No.2.

About 20 former land owners met recently to discuss the way forward to claiming back their land, as the land initially surrendered as the site of SMK Serian No.2 was deemed unsuitable and the proposal cancelled.

Serian branch chief of Democratic Action Party (DAP) Edward Andrew Luwak said that the previous land owners now want the government to return their land and to re-issue the leases for their land.

“They made a firm stand that their surrendering of their land was for the construction of SMK Serian No. 2 and a decade ago, they were delighted when told that a secondary school would be built at the vicinity of their village.

“Thus, they willingly surrendered their land even on payment of compensation which could be considered as ‘token’ compensations,” Edward said in a statement yesterday.

He added that two previous land owners, Jerome Kakit and Bonny Mayon, divulged that they were paid compensation of around RM15,000 per acre, while Jean Maria who attended the session said that she received around RM20,000 for her one-acre plot.

“All three had agreed to surrender their land as it was for a worthy cause. But on the compensation paid to them around a decade ago, they would want the government to consider waiving the pay-back of the payment as they felt that they had been denied using their land for agriculture purposes for many years.

“They would have reaped more than the compensation received had their land not been taken away. Thus, those at the meeting wanted the government to commit to returning their land as it was only for one purpose that they willingly parted with their land, and they hope that the government would respond fast to their plea,” Edward said.

He added that the previous land owners were ready to till their land for agriculture to complement their daily living cost.

“If the government does not take any steps to return their land, they would take further action to demand for the return of their land,” Edward pointed out.

Based on previous news reports, the approval of SMK Serian No.2 was announced in Parliament on Aug 23, 2008 by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) federal administration.

It was announced that the new school would have 36 classrooms, boarding houses for 1,000 students and also teachers’ quarters.

The media reported that the construction of the school would be expedited since the Sarawak Education Department had already identified the location, but after more than 11 years, the construction had yet to commence.

Earlier this year, state Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dato Sri Michael Manyin had blamed the Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led federal government for keeping quiet over the delay of the construction of SMK Serian No 2.

“It is unfair for Manyin to blame the PH government as the project was approved a decade ago under the BN administration. Recently, on Nov 12, Manyin when replying to Bukit Semuja assemblyman in the State Legislative Assembly stated that the delay in the project was due to siting issues.

“Manyin added that a new site had been applied for on Oct 15, but had not received any further development,” Edward added.