Longstanding dispute over 6,000 acres of land in Sungai Koyah, Sukau could spell trouble for Barisan Nasional (BN) in the coming general elections, according to BN backbencher Datuk Saadi Abdul Rahman.
He said the villagers affected were beyond frustration after the authority concerned left them in the lurch for years, and may resort to giving their votes to the opposition if the government failed to intervene urgently to return their land.
“It is like a love triangle now, with three parties competing for the same land. On one side are 400 smallholders who were given the rights to develop the land by the then Berjaya government, claiming they have been cheated and robbed of their rights by an oil palm company.
“On the other side is the oil palm company, which claimed to have been given approval by the authority as well as the villagers to jointly develop the land into a smallholder scheme. And then there are the illegal settlers who have encroached on some areas of the land since 10 to 15 years ago.
“In this tug of war situation, the local villagers who are the ones who do not get anything. So, it is understandable they are very upset and if this continues, they may punish the government.
There are 400 of them, if each has a wife and four children eligible to vote, it’s already something like 2,000 lost votes. If this is the case, I may very well lose in the coming election,” he said when debating the 2013 State Budget during the State Assembly sitting yesterday.
Saadi, who is also Sukau assemblyman, said the villagers’ plight started after the Bursa Malaysia-listed company managed to acquire the blessing to develop the land in 1999.
The company, he said, was allowed to be the implementing agency for the proposed oil palm smallholding scheme, with several conditions set in place to protect the rights of the villagers, including paying a share and dividend to all 400 participants.
However, the company started to break its promises soon after it managed to get signatures of the participants involved, which was required in order for them to legally develop the land.
The company, claimed Saadi, had not made any dividend payments to the participants.
“The villagers’ action committee has given to me a memorandum demanding for their rights to be protected by the government and it is my responsibility as the elected representative for my constituents to see it done,” he said.
To resolve the issue, Saadi proposed two options, including taking back the land in question and issuing a communal title to the villagers before helping them to develop it as a MESEJ project.
The other option, he said, is to just give the land to the 400 original participants and let them develop their respective lands on their own.
On another issue, Saadi requested the government to consider building a new middle school at Kampung Batu Putih to help cater for the growing population in Sukau, as there were currently only middle schools in the whole district.
He also proposed that the Local Government and Housing Ministry give additional allocation for Pekan Baru Sukau project next year.
He noted that the ministry received about RM108 million in allocation under the 2013 Budget, as compared to only RM39 million under 2012 Budget. Saadi also suggested the special Sentuhan Kasih allocation be increased from the current RM500,000 to RM1 million for every constituency, considering it has greatly benefitted the poor across the State.
Source: TheBorneoPost Online 23 Oct 2012