Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Palm oil company behind 10,000 villagers being evicted.

The StarOnline, Malaysia

10,000 villagers ignore eviction notices

By : Sulok Tawie

KUCHING: About 10,000 villagers in Bekenu, Bintulu Division, have been ordered out of the homes they had been staying for generations.

The villagers in 13 communities were issued eviction notices by an oil palm plantation company.

Although the eviction notices expired yesterday, the villagers have vowed to stay on.

Local dailies reported that the villages had been in existence since 1910. Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management Datuk Seri Awang Tengah Ali Hasan was shocked when informed of the eviction order yesterday.

"Are you sure about that? "Who issued the notices and when are they supposed to move out?" he asked reporters who approached him after he had handed land titles to villagers of Kampung Tanjong Poting and Kampung Tanjung Senibong in Bau district, about 60km from here, yesterday.

He said evicting such a large number of people would require the state government's approval. He said moving a large number of people required proper planning and finding alternative suitable places to resettle them.

The affected villages are Kampung Batu Satu, Kampung Butir, Kampung Kejapil, Kampung Keluru Tengah, Kampung Keluru Jaya, Kampung Subak, Kampung Sepurau, Kampung Selangau, Kampung Opak, Kampung Tusan, Kampung Uban, Kampung Terahad and Kampung Beraya. A community leader, Penghulu Sahar Puasa, led a peaceful demonstration in Bekenu recently, saying that they would stay put on the land they and their forefathers had occupied since 1910.

Penghulu Sahar said they had raised the matter with the Bintulu Land and Survey Office and were told that the oil palm company had been issued with a probationary lease to develop the land. On the matter of renewal of agricultural land leases in Sibu, which had caused an uproar among owners, Awang Tengah said the premium rate was set at 25 per cent on current value to "encourage the owners to develop the land".

Landowners had complained that they were asked to pay up to RM90,000 in premium to renew leases.Awang Tengah said a flat RM10,000 premium was imposed on developed urban agricultural land and a flat rate of RM5,000 was imposed on semi-urban agricultural land.

Earlier, in his speech at the handing-over ceremony for the land titles, he warned the people that the Land and Survey Office would not survey their Native Customary Right (NCR) land if there were disputes over ownership.He said they had to settle minor issues among themselves before asking the office to survey their land.A total of 385 land titles were issued to the villagers.