by Peter Sibon. Posted on December 24, 2010, FridayKUCHING: The state government never grabbed Native Customary Rights (NCR) land from their owners, clarified Minister of Land Development Dato Sri Dr James Masing.
At present, he explained, there are 1.5 million hectares of NCR land in the state. Quite a sizeable of it had been acquired for setting up plantations after consent was obtained from the owners.
“When we acquire NCR land for plantation, such as for oil palm plantation, we have to follow very strict procedures and guidelines.
“We will seek the cooperation from every individual NCR land owner before we develop their land. If they disagree, we won’t come in,” Masing told the media here yesterday.
Masing was rebutting a letter which he received yesterday morning, purportedly written by one Robert E Rutkowski.
The letter was addressed to the Prime Minister and copies of it were also sent to the Chief Minister and Masing himself.
“As far as I am concerned the letter indicates two things about the writer. That he is both ignorant and arrogant,” said Masing.
He said the writer was ignorant because he did not know the laws of the land.
He was arrogant because he made the government looked as if it was being run by a bunch of crooks.
Masing revealed that currently, some 900,000 hectares of land were under palm oil, out of which some 200,000 hectares are NCR land.
“And by 2020, our target is to develop some 2 million hectares of land which belongs both to the state and the natives for plantation purposes. In our case, it will be for palm oil and rubber,” he said.
Masing pointed out that anyone who wished to know about the land development concept in Sarawak is free to check with his ministry.
On the allegation by Rutkowski that the Penans were the main victims of land grabbing by the government, Masing reiterated that the government had, in fact, been very kind to them.
Masing said under the law, the Penans did not own much land under the NCR land status as, prior to 1958, most of them were still nomadic.
“So, it is a blatant lie that we rob their land. In fact, we have never stopped the nomadic Penans from roaming the vast areas in Baram and Belaga to fish and hunt.
“Even in Mulu National Park, we allowed them to hunt for animals, gathered jungle produce and fish,” he said.
Masing stressed that in future, the Penans would be allowed to roam at the water catchment areas of Bakun and Murum dams.
He further stressed that anyone who deprived the government to develop the NCR land for the benefits of the owners to eradicate poverty as “irresponsible”.
“I do not apologise if I have to do it aggressively (develop the NCR land). I really want to develop the NCR land, otherwise if the land remains idle, then the owners will remain poor.
“I will continue to do it as it will be good for the people because we don’t want them to remain poor. Among the main objective to develop the NCR land is to eradicate poverty among the people in the rural area,” he stressed.