Natives stood to lose out completely with the new communal land title system introduced by the previous administration.
Not only being deprived in terms of native land ownership but also their socio-economic viability over the long term.
In making this point a former legal adviser to the Land and Survey Department said this was because it was not done in good faith nor implemented properly.
“It is enlightening to note that the Warisan government acted swiftly to scrap the communal title issued in respect of large tracts of state land,” said Kevin Joibi in a statement today.
Communal titles, he explained, were issued in the 1960s and 1970s era in respect of village settlements, similar to the Kampung Reserve.
“It remained a creature of that period, until it was revived and modified to accommodate this new communal title system.”
But according to Joibi it caused a lot of dissatisfaction among the natives as the new communal title system had several negative implications.
For starters, he said, they immediately lost the advantage of keeping a communal title based on established customary tenure or rights.
“The natives also lost completely any interest in the land including the right to caveat the land,” he said, adding they also ceased to be the true beneficiaries due to the imposition of special terms.
Joibi said the authority given to the Director of Land and Survey as the sole decision maker was also open to abuse.
“The director is empowered to remove or replace any beneficiary to the land which provides no security of ownership to the natives,” he said, pointing out that this could be abused for any reason.
Under the communal title system natives were not allowed to work on the land and risked arrest for trespassing.
“This indicates that the natives have no right or interest over the land issued under the communal title.”
Joibi said all communal titles were in English which prevented natives from understanding the terms and impacts of the titles.
“The natives also did not have access to the communal title and most had not seen a copy of it.”
Joibi said joint venture agreements under the special terms provided for in the new communal title also meant no or very little involvement from the natives.
To begin with a negative implication of the JV is that the natives have no power in the management of the development of the land, he said.
“In some cases, despite having executed a JV agreement with their preferred developer, the natives were forced by the director to select a certain developer to joint venture.
“In JV agreements, dividend payment is decided based on the profit declared by the developer. There is no protection for the natives as there is no accountability.”
According to Joibi developers may clear out and make profit from logging on the land and thereafter abandon the project of planting oil palm trees/rubber trees on the same cleared land for the benefit of the natives.
“The natives end up with an area destroyed of its natural resources,” he said.
Also, he said all JV agreements are in English which prevented natives from understanding the terms and impacts of the agreements.
Joibi said it was therefore good to note that the Warisan-led state government decided to abolish the communal land title system and give more impetus to the issuance of NCR/NT titles.
He hoped the government’s efforts go beyond the delivery of individual titles and assist the natives through provision of facilities, aid and information to develop and optimise the use of their land.
This, he said, would uplift the socio-economic status of natives in the state.
Caretaker Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal had previously said that about 10,000 individual land titles had been readied for distribution to natives who had been waiting for 30-40 years.
The effort to hand over the titles began last year, only to be disrupted by Covid-19 lockdown measures, but resumed recently.
More than 4,000 individual native land titles have so far been delivered to applicants across the state.