Friday, 6 June 2008

Police in Sabah receive 38 land grab reports

Police in Sabah receive 38 land grab reports

KOTA KINABALU - Police have so far received 38 reports in the dispute between a company and 171 smallholders involving more than 1,300ha of oil palm land in Sabah's east coast, The Star reported.

State police chief Datuk Noor Rashid Ibrahim said investigations were being carried out for offences such as theft, intimidation, wrongful restraint, extortion, theft of vehicles, causing voluntarily hurt and criminal trespass.

State ACA director Latifah Yatim meanwhile said a probe was underway following allegations of "power abuse" by a politician and a police officer in the dispute dating back to 2003.

Noor Rashid said police had set up a special team to investigate the reports including those alleging wrongdoing by several police officers.
However, he said efforts were hampered by complainants and witnesses refusing to meet with the police.

"At the complainants' requests, our team went to Tawau and Kunak and waited for them at hotels but to no avail.

"When we called, they did not answer their phones. Some gave incomplete addresses or were out of town although appointments had been made," he said.

He said police needed to gather sufficient evidence and not arrest individuals based on police reports.

"Our aim is to ensure that justice is served on the smallholders, the company and the police officers accused of committing wrongdoing," he said.

The dispute began on Nov 17, 2003 when the Assistant Collector of Land Revenue (ACLR) directed the smallholders who had developed the land to vacate the property.

The Sabah Land and Survey Department issued a similar order on April 19, 2006.

Noor Rashid said the Tawau High Court reinforced the ruling in a similar decision on March 18, 2008 in which it held that the land had been granted to Syarikat Kerjasama Perkembangan Tanah Tingkayu Berhad.

He said the smallholders obtained a court injunction on Feb 1, 2008 barring the company from preventing them to enter the land and removing any produce.

The injunction also prevented the company from taking possession of the land until all legal issues had been resolved.

Noor Rashid said the injunction should have been served on the company and any non-compliance should be reported back to the court for further action.

"We will only intervene in the event of no compliance in the court order or if we feel that any action taken by anyone could threaten public order," he added.