Sandakan villagers make another plea
Published on: Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Sandakan: Some 180 villagers in Kampung Tinusa 1, Mile 7 here involved in a longstanding land dispute are again seeking the intervention of the State government to prevent their houses being demolished.

Following a Daily Express report last July on their plight, villagers are yet to receive positive feedback from the Government and the issue has been highlighted again by the Persatuan Kebajikan Generasi Endrekang Sabah (PKGES).

Its Chairman, Erwin @ Batilis bin Jaraman, said 65 per cent of Kampung Tinusa 1 villagers are members of the PKGES and it would try to protect their welfare.

Erwin noted that the Chief Minister had on Nov 18 in Kota Marudu stated people's land should be returned to them.

"This indicates the State Government can help villagers of Kampung Tinusa 1 by maintaining the land status as the villagers' right.

"Villagers of Kampung Tinusa 1 were given a notice to clear the village by moving out their belongings before or on Jan 7. However, all villagers refused to vacate as they had dwelled there for almost 30 years.

"A total of 23 houses occupied by 180 people will be affected as they have no other houses," Erwin said to reporters at Kampung Tinusa 1.

Based on records, the five acres had become Country Lease (CL) since 1961, during the colonial government.

One villager, Kadin Bongei, 80, and his family claim to have been residing on the land since before he was born in 1938.

Kadin believed the land belonged to his mother. However, Kadin himself had not seen the title deed but had been selling plots of land to people. Many bought the plots from him to build their houses there, including those whose houses were demolished in BDC during 1990.

The villagers paid money to Kadin to buy the plots. The "sale" was done in a very informal way ("kampung style").

This shows they are very simple-minded and innocent. They did not understand how a proper and legal land sale should be done.

The houses built by the villagers are not squatter houses. They are well-built, many even had concrete and brick structures.

They genuinely believed that the plots of land belonged to Kadin, and that the plots had been validly sold to them.

However, the three current registered owners of the CL bought the land in 1993/1995. They took court action to evict the villagers in 2000, and arrested seven of them for contempt of court.

However, genuinely believing that the land belonged to Kadin and them, the villagers refused to leave.

As a result, six villagers were jailed for three days before being released (after being forced to sign "tenancy agreement" with the CL owners). But Kadin refused to sign it, and stayed in prison for 14 months to "defend his land". He was eventually released, after his family forced to sign the "tenancy agreement" for him.

In 2011, the CL owners took new legal action again to evict the villagers. They successfully obtained eviction order from the court.

In 2013, about seven to eight houses were demolished by the court bailiffs. The demolition was stopped when Stephen Wong, the Sandakan MP intervened. - Winnie Kasmir


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