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NT lands either undeveloped or lost
Published on: Sunday, October 17, 2021
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Credit: en.wikipedia.org (For Illustration Purpose Only)
DATUK John Lo in his weekly “Inside Out Column” (Daily Express, October 10, 2021), with the key word “Sabahans First Policy on Agriculture” can be most meaningful and benefit many Sabahans.  

This statement is very true and factual.  While Sabah is blessed as an agricultural country, on the other hand at least 70pc of Sabahans live in poverty in the rural areas. Regrettably these poor rural people despite having been alienated agricultural land produce nothing, neither for themselves nor for sale.  

If there are any rubber or oil palm, most are haphazardly planted and maintained which produce very little income. Hardly enough to support their livings.

Sabahan’s agriculture concept or practice has been the practice since days immemorial.  Few hundred years ago the rural people extracted jungle produce for sale to the British companies. 

Later, the British introduced rubber and little coffee.  So much so in order to keep Sabahans first in agriculture the British alienated lands with Native Titles.  

Native Title is in perpetuity or known as freehold lease.  The only problem is that Native titles cannot be sold or transferred to Non Natives, unless it is first converted into Country Lease. 

This caused the value of the Native Title to be very low.  It has been suggested that to those Native Titles in the developed areas, the value should be based on the zoning of that particular zone. 

For example if Native Title is at Gaya Street, it should be valued at Town Land.  This is the easiest way to overcome the issue on Native Title value in developed areas.

Under the division of Powers between Federal and the State of Sabah, land is a state matter.  

As such out of the millions of hectares alienated by the State, only a very small percentage was alienated to outsiders. 

This included the few million hectares of oil palm plantations, originally alienated by the State Government to Sabahans.  

Then slowly and surely Sabahans sold their lands to outsiders, mostly to West Malaysian Companies who are now enjoying the yields from these lands.

It is further on record that the Berjaya Government imposed a policy that any large scale alienation of agricultural land, the Natives (Sabahans) to hold 49pc shares in the companies and plantations. 

And this includes the land of 300,000 acres for development by the Federal Land Development is for Sabahan Settlers at 15 acres each or for a total of 20,000 settlers.  

The Berjaya Government also reserved and surveyed over 60,000 lots of 15 acres for landless Sabahans. 

Regrettably, Parti Bersatu Sabah leaders sold all these areas to West Malaysian companies.  All these are for a total area of a few million hectares.  

As usual none of Sabah leaders raised this very important matter in the name of survival for the rural poor.

Based on these facts, Sabahans are being accorded priority on land alienation for agriculture purposes but strictly speaking almost none even for the local market.  

These are sample fruits such as coffee, cocoa, oranges, pineapple and a few others.  The talk about Tenom coffee, there is hardly more than 20 acres of coffee are being planted in Tenom.  

Tenom coffee is imported from Indonesia, Indo China and others, but sold as Tenom coffee.  Name only, just like Starbucks. 

The State Government through the Ministry of Agriculture a few years ago introduced a number of agriculture undertakings.  

These were Passion fruit, Durian, Avocado and Vanilla among others.  The government provided seedlings and funds for the planting of these crops.  

Also introduced were Rabbits for “Satay” and “Burong Puyu”.  Millions of ringgit spent have been wasted.  

When introducing, the Agriculture Department announced that all those introduced will bring over RM80,000 yearly for a farmer. 

What happened – all flopped.  Among the reasons are farmers were not guided how to grow or look after, no guaranteed price, no processing centre.  

Another important reason was that local bourgeois (Middle Class Town People) prefer to buy imported vegetables and fruits – like tasteless, small avocado from Australia even if it costs RM6 each.

It is worth mentioning that even the 12th Malaysia Development Plan did not mention at all about programmes and allocation for the rural poor.  Providing infrastructures and modern facilities will not much helping Sabahans to uplift their economic doldrums. 

The concept of Sabahan First Policy on Agriculture is nothing new.  It has been in existent all these years.  

In addition Sabahan (Natives) are being accorded “Special Privileges” under both the Federal and State Constitutions. 

Despite the concept and Sabah First Policy on Agriculture, there are hardly any Natives raised from poverty to middle class in the agriculture sector.  

Actually this policy in a way weaken the spirit of hard work.  Anyway as suggested by Lo it is better to revive the concept and policy. 

In addition, however, it must be accompanied by programmes, Plan, Financing, establishment of Processing Centres and Guaranteed prices.  

Remember Sabahans have wasted at least 60 years and became the poorest state in Malaysia.

Majapahit farmer

Semporna



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