Casinos in Borneo Highlands? Abdul Karim does not rule out possibility

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Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah

KUCHING (March 21): Could Sarawak one day see casinos opened in Borneo Highlands?

Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah says the possibility of developing the area in Padawan into the country’s ‘second Genting Highlands’ certainly cannot be ruled out.

“I can’t say yes or no (to having casinos opened in Borneo Highlands) at the moment. I guess we’ll leave it to the state government to decide whether to allow casinos to be built there.

“It can be a good idea if regulated properly (because) Singapore can do it. I think why not, as long as it does not lead to big social problems,” he told a press conference after chairing the State Tourism Steering Committee meeting here today.

He was asked by reporters on what the Sarawak government’s development plans are for Borneo Highlands, following a Federal Court decision earlier this month in dismissing an application by a company for leave to appeal against an order made by the Sarawak Land and Survey Department Superintendent to forfeit three parcels of land meant for the development of Borneo Highlands Resort.

Abdul Karim said it would take the state government some time to decide what to do with the land, as there are many facilities in the area in need of maintenance works including the road leading there.

“It might take a little bit of time for the state government to think about what it wants to do with the place because the resort in the area, for example, has not been in operation for a while.

“Apart from that, a study needs to be done to find out what is the most suitable thing to do with the place.”

He added the government has tasked Padawan Municipal Council to carry out the required maintenance works.

On March 7, a three-member Federal Court bench headed by Court of Appeal president Tan Sri Abang Iskandar Abang Hashim decided there was no merit in Borneo Heights Sdn Bhd’s application for leave to appeal against the forfeiture order.

The ruling meant the company had exhausted all legal avenues to recover the land that was forfeited to the state government.

In September 1994, the Sarawak government alienated a parcel of land with an area of 2,071 hectares for the development of a holiday resort in Borneo Highlands.

The land was subdivided into Lots 48, 49, 50 and 51, Block 11 Pangkalan Ampat Land District.

Under the title conditions, the land had to be used for a holiday resort and developed in accordance with plans approved by the Land and Survey director, and completed by September 1999.

Since the development of the holiday resort was not completed even by 2020, and the condition of the developed part of the resort including the golf course and clubhouse were in a deplorable and dilapidated state, the Sarawak government served notice on the company to remedy the breach of title condition and to complete the development the resort.

The company however failed to comply with the Notice to Remedy.

On May 7, 2021, the government under Section 33(5) of the Land Code forfeited three of the parcels – Lots 48, 49 and 51 – where no development had taken place. The forfeited land then became state land.

Lot 50, which had been developed into residential lots and sold by the company to various third parties, was not forfeited.

In August 2022, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the state government and the Land Custody and Development Authority in dismissing the claim by the company for declaration to annul the forfeiture order.