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Explain land grab, CM told

Muslim natives in Kampung Rampayan want Chief Minister
Musa Aman to explain the controversial 'land grab'
involving 1,200 acres of of NCR land.
By Luke Rintod and Stephanie Sta Maria
KOTA BELUD: The Iranun community in Kampung Rampayan near here want their Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan to stop issuing statements from the comforts of swanky Petaling Jaya and to listen to their view on his ‘pet project’ – a 5-star resort in their poverty-stricken kampung.

According to Akim Salleh, deputy chairman of the Action Committee for Rampayan NCR Land, they had met Rahman, whom the villagers had accused of ‘selling’ off 1,200 acres of native customary (NCR) land to a private company after promising to help them resolve the issue, to explain their concerns.

But Rahman, who has since refuted the natives’ allegations, is apparently not listening.

“Yes, we met him three weeks ago. We requested to meet him again but he is not coming.

“It is not right to say there is no NCR (native customary right) over the 800-acre of Rampayan land.

“It is not for an MP to say that there is no NCR.

“Maybe Rahman does not know Rampayan well as he is from Tuaran … not from our place.

“Does he know what Luk Padang and Tando Magarang mean in Iranun? Those names are not there for nothing,” said Akim.

According to Akim, in the Iranun dialect, the word ‘Luk’ means ‘middle’ while ‘Padang’ means ‘lallang’. The other words ‘ando’ means ‘bay’ and ‘Magarang’ means ‘sharp’.

“So there you have our history partly explaining why we assert our rights ahead of the newly-formed company with links to the powers that be.

“Luk Padang has been for ages the grazing areas for our livestock. The bay is where we had been catching fish and other supplies since time immemorial, ” he said.

He also questioned Rahman’s understanding of NCR land.

“Mr MP (Rahman) how about the burial sites of our ancestors? Do you still dare to say there is no NCR over it just because the government has not given us land titles?

“Look who gets land titles faster? Is it the natives or companies?” asked Akim.

Rahman an outsider

Speaking to FMT, Akim said because Rahman was an outsider he was not well-versed with the Rampayan land issue.

“With due respect, MP Rahman is an outsider from Tuaran as compared to our members and families whose forefathers had been living and toiling the Rampayan land for ages.

“We would like to ask what happened to the applications from 134 villagers over the last 40 years?

“One of the companies in question now was only incorporated on Oct 20, 2009 and one day later it lodged an application for the Rampayan land in question.

“Why is our MP taking sides with a company with questionable capability is a surprise. Why don’t you side with us the natives?

“What is the paid-up capital of the company wanting to put up a 5-star resort in Rampayan?

“We don’t know but people have been talking about only RM30,000 paid up capital.

“What next after the 800 acres land is given to the company? They will have joint ventures and mortgage the land to banks?

“Who is behind this? Who will benefit from this transactions?” asked Akim.

Musa’s hand

Meanwhile Rahman, in his defence has refuted the natives allegations.

In an immediate response to the issue, he told FMT earlier in the week that he only knew of the resort development when Chief Minister Musa Aman briefed him.

To which Akim said: “Now the CM has to answer or clarify simply because the MP has said he first learned (about) the 5-star resort from the CM.

“We would like to meet MP Rahman again because actually he could contribute to a solution satisfactory to us the natives if he chooses to listen to the people here.

“We are not against development. In fact we would like to participate and lead in it if possible but not this way where our rights are simply brushed off as if NCR and our life means nothing.”

The Rampayan land grab issue involves a beach area on which a company is proposing to build an up-scale resort as part of a tourism project to help boost the economy of the district.

According to Rahman the company was originally eyeing his hometown of Tuaran as an ideal development spot due to its proximity to Kota Kinabalu.

He claimed however that the Sabah government ordered that the development be carried out in Kota Belud to boost the district’s economy and that he had been unaware of the plans until he was briefed by Musa.

“Kota Belud is still poor, backward and hungry for development so of course I was happy that the project had been redirected here,” he had said.

Rahman is also under pressure over another project also in the Kota Belud area – the controversial proposed Tambatuon Dam.

‘It’s state land’

Meanwhile when contacted again for comment, a frustrated Rahman again reiterated that it wasn’t his fault and that it was the state governmentwhich had mooted the idea and determined the status of the land.

Rahman said the Iranums were “barking up the wrong tree” by “picking a fight” with him instead of talking to the state government.

“The company conducted its own research on the ideal location for the project in Kota Belud.

“They spoke to the Land Office on the available state lands and decided on Rampayan,” he said.

Rahman said he had spoken to various authorities about the land’s status and “all have confirmed that the disputed land belongs to the state.”

“So stop barking at me and show the state government proof that it is NCR land.

“Because right now the basis of the natives’ argument is flawed,” he added.

He also addressed claims that 134 applications for the land had been ignored for the last 40 years.

“The reason for the state government’s hesitation to approve the 134 applications is because the disputed land fell under the tourism zone while the applications are for agricultural projects.

“But the Land Office director agreed in principle two months ago to give parts of that land to each of the 134 applicants in order to reach a win-win solution.

“The size has yet to be decided but we are willing to discuss this further with the villagers,” he said.

‘I sought advise’

Rahman also shot down claims that his ignorance stemmed from the fact that he is an “outsider” from Tuaran.

He revealed that one of the Iranuns most trusted and respected elders is Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat, Pandikar Amin Mulia, who has personally backed the project in Rampayan.

“I sought Pandikar’s advice during a function in Rampayan Ulu two months ago.

“He told me to continue with the development as it was for the betterment of the community and the area.

“He also reminded me that my job as a wakil rakyat is to bring development to the people.”

Rahman pointed out that opposing the project would have been the easiest way for him to win votes in this crucial run-up to the next general election.

But, he emphasised, that he was elected to represent the people and not his own interests.

“And this is what some people forget. I represent everyone in Kota Belud not just a village.

“Right now I’m defending the majority of Kota Belud people who want jobs and economic spin-offs like electricity and water supply in this godforsaken constituency.

“They want to work in a hotel in Kota Belud instead of a factory in Kota Kinabalu or Kuala Lumpur. So I’m in a dilemma here.

“I don’t care about the company, I care about what it can bring to my constituents.”

“No development can take place in the air, it has to be on the ground.

“And if everyone is going to make things difficult then it will be impossible to ever develop Kota Belud,” he said.

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