STAR Land Reforms Masterplan – NCR First, Sabah Land for Sabahans First

The purpose of this Press Conference is to announce the LAND AND NCR REFORMS MASTERPLAN of STAR Sabah and the relevant portion of the STATE ADMINISTRATION REFORMS related to land administration which forms part of the Land and NCR Masterplan.

“Under its Land and NCR Reforms Masterplan, STAR will respect and restore the rights of natives to NCR and native lands and prioritize land for all Sabahans based on its policy and vision “NCR FIRST, SABAH LAND FOR SABAHANS FIRST”.

The Land and NCR Reforms Masterplan has 3 key objectives:-

(1) Reforms of the laws and administration relating to land and NCR;

(2) A more effective and efficient land administration and management;

(3) Resolution of land and NCR problems.

The reforms of the land and NCR laws will involve:-

(a) Unequivocal and clear recognition of NCR;

(b) For other lands, Sabahans will be given priority;

(c) Native land rights will be uplifted, strengthened and protected in particular:-

(i) A Demographic Mapping will be undertaken to identify and confirm native rights, NCR, land occupation and population;

(ii) Category of land use in Native Titles (NT) will be extended to include commercial, industrial and other uses and not just restricted to agricultural use.

(d) The establishment of SABAH LAND AND NCR COMMISSION;

(e) The establishment of SABAH NATIVE LAND FOUNDATION;

(f) The establishment of SABAH LAND TRIBUNAL;

(g) The de-centralization of land administration from central-based to region-based.

The Land and NCR Commission will be tasked with implementing and managing a NEW LAND POLICY incorporating the Masterplan and recognizing and prioritizing NCR and native rights and prioritizing Sabah’s land for Sabahans first.

The Commission will be responsible for the supervision of the land administration in the State where power and authority will not be concentrated in the hands of one person only. In the present system, the authority and decision of the Director in alienating lands to anyone under Section 9 of the Land Ordinance cannot even be appealed as provided in Section 41.

Under the new Land Policy, NCR will be recognized first in land alienation after which Sabahans will be accorded priority. The present policy of the State Government in failing to recognize NCR and alienating land to companies against existing original settlers will be abolished.

The Director of Land recently disclosed that out of 2.1 million hectares of land available for alienation, the State had already alienated about 1.9 million hectares of which only 31% was alienated to natives and the other 69% to others. It is wrong for the Government not to give priority to natives and Sabahans in land alienation.

This Land Policy will put a stop to the current land and NCR disputes where companies are given vast tracts of tens of thousands of acres leading to destruction of plants and crops of the original settlers and the destruction of homes and eviction of natives will be stopped.

The following policies on land alienation will be adopted:-

(a) Native rights under NCR will be recognized first;

(b) For non-NCR lands, priority will be given to Sabahans;

(c) Land will only be rented or leased to the federal government or federal agencies and land ownership will be retained by the State in perpetuity;

(d) For lands alienated for agricultural purpose on commercial basis will be required to include a 30% of the land area to be developed and owned by the Sabah Natives (Land) Foundation with provision for reimbursement of the development costs;

(e) The process of renewal of leases will be simplified and approved based on semi-automatic renewal basis and all 999-year leases will be given a same leasehold period upon conversion and not new 99-year leasehold titles;

(f) A periodical 10-15 years review of land premiums will be considered.

A new system of recognition of NCR claims and owners will be adopted. The current process of making natives claiming NCR via a land application (LA) or “permohonan tanah” (PT) will be changed as it may not be correct.

Natives should not be made to “apply for land” where the issue is whether they are the legitimate NCR owners which will be determined by a new NCR Land Process (NLP).

NCR ownership and claims will be determined via the NLP with a client charter of resolution by the NLP in 6 months for normal cases and 12 months for complicated cases.

As for the land administration reforms, they will include:-

(1) The establishment of the Land and NCR Commission as explained above;

(2) Land Administration will be handled through 3 Departments;

(3) The Land and Survey Department will be split into 2 Departments, namely:-

(a) Land Department;

(b) Survey and Mapping Department;

(4) A 3rd Department related to land matters, namely, VALUATION AND PROPERTY SERVICES DEPARTMENT will also come under the purview of the Commission;

(5) The Land Department will be responsible for land matters and collection of land revenues and other associated matters not specifically provided by other Departments or Authorities or Agencies;

(6) Land administration under the Land Department will be de-centralized with a Headquarters headed by a Director General who will also be the State Collector of Land Revenue (State CLR) and 5 Regional centres headed by a Regional Director cum Regional CLR each and Assistant CLRs in the Districts and Sub-districts;

(7) The Survey and Mapping Department will be responsible for survey, mapping and other related services;

(8) The Survey and Mapping Department will be entrusted with a State Demographic Mapping exercise which will identify and confirm the existence of native rights and NCR as well as to identify and determine the location of all residents. This task is also part of a Homeland Security, Immigration and Registration Masterplan to be announced;

(9) The Valuation and Property Services Department will be responsible for property valuation services, administration of land and properties of the State and other land and property related services.

Land Administration will be administered as in the Chart below:-

The objective of the Land and NCR Commission will be to take charge, streamline and oversee land administration in Sabah and to resolve all land issues, problems and related matters.

The responsibilities of the Commission include:-

(1) To formulate the new Land Policy and other land policies from time to time;

(2) To review and recommend law reforms pertaining to land, NCR and land administration;

(3) To oversee the Land, Survey and Mapping and Valuation and Property Services Departments;

(4) To act as the bridge between the 3 Departments and the rakyat and clients including the handling of public complaints;

(5) To work with the Land Tribunal and assistance towards resolution of land disputes and problems;

(6) Review and recommend changes to land premiums and land revenues.

Amongst the new policies to be adopted under the new land laws will be:-

(1) Safeguards for the rights of natives, NCR and native lands;

(2) Native lands and native titles will not just be confined to agriculture use only but also commercial, industrial and other uses;

(3) “Native Land Reserves” will be established in every Administrative Region for the benefit of future generations;

(4) There will be no alienation of land to Federal Agencies or Agencies from other States;

(5) There will be a review of all lands alienated to Federal Agencies or Agencies from other States for agriculture purposes:

(6) Federal Agropolitan and other agriculture projects will not be granted land rights which will be reserved for qualified natives and other Sabahans only;

(7) The issuance of Communal Titles will be reviewed together with existing policies on land, forest reserves and NCR;

(8) Alienation of lands to non-Sabahans may be subject to development of certain percentage of the land for natives and Sabahans;

(9) All existing land applications will be reviewed and resolved with a targeted resolution of 50% of the cases within a period of 2 years;

(10) There will be a review of all court cases involving alienation of land, NCR and forest reserves as well as all lands alienated in breach of NCR.

(11) Updating the system and knowledge of land administration and land officers with Sabah land laws without interferences of land administration in Peninsular where the land laws are different where NCR and customary lands do not exist.

On the issue of communal titles, the State administration should re-consider the issuance of communal titles and not merely rush through the process and give out communal titles

without considering the NCR claims of legitimate NCR owners who may been legal owners for several generations and which their applications have been pending for years, some even decades. Where applicable NCR titles should be issued to these NCR owners before blanket cancellation of their NCR ownership through the issuance of new communal titles over the NCR lands and NCR applications.

The rights of the owners of the communal titles should be considered first and not “robbed” through the imposition of trustees or third-parties who make decisions as though they are the owners when the natives are the legitimate owners of the communal title. If the State administration is looking to protect rights of the natives and prevent sale, there are many better alternatives such as only transfers through succession only or to family and related persons.

The sudden rush-job of issuing communal titles can only be interpreted as solely for political reasons due to pending general elections to appease local natives and to quell their growing anger against the political leaders who have alienated their NCR lands to companies who in turn have destroyed their crops, plants, homes and evicted them from their own land.

The Sabah Native Land Foundation will be entrusted to safeguard and act as guardians of native land rights as the natives being the indigenous people in Sabah are the owners of the land which existed before the British colonial times or the promulgation of the Land Ordinance and long before Malaysia was formed.

The Foundation will hold lands on behalf of all natives in Sabah as well as the percentage allocation of land alienated for commercial agriculture purposes. It will also act as a safety net for native lands facing foreclosure and auctions and will buy at or before auction and or settle the outstanding debts and hold the native lands concerned and the owner will be granted the opportunity to buy-back or redeem the native land concerned. The Foundation will also assist natives in all matters relating to native lands.

The Sabah Land Tribunal will be formed to administer justice in relation to land matters in Sabah and to adjudicate all land disputes and problems. It will be similar to what the industrial court, consumer tribunal and housing tribunal and will work in conjunction with the civil court system and the native court system.

As can be seen, the Land and NCR Reforms Masterplan is intended to reform the existing land laws and related laws as well as to reform the entire system of land administration in Sabah.
Both reforms are progressive and advances the rights of natives and Sabahans to lands in Sabah and to promote economic development of natives through their native lands as well as through the allocation of certain percentage of commercial agricultural lands and at the same time protective of native rights and native lands.

As enshrined in the BATU SUMPAH, we cannot rely on and cannot depend on outsiders and politicians with outside political masters to decide on Sabah’s land. And certainly not in prioritizing alienation of land rights to outsiders at the expense of natives and genuine Sabahans.

Meantime, as for the others and business communities, we wish to re-assure that notwithstanding our land policies, we will be people and business-friendly in our policies which will be announced separately.

Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan
Chairman, STAR Sabah.
04 April 2012