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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Really?

Demolition of squatter houses proper: Masing

KUCHING: The demolition of houses along the Bintulu-Bakun Road and Sungai Asap is a non-issue because the structures were illegally erected on state land, Minister of Land Development Dato Sri Dr James Masing said yesterday.

“They (the houses) have been demolished because that area, I believe, has been compensated and taken over by the government. So the native customary rights (NCR) on that land have been extinguished.

“Once your rights have been extinguished in that area, you cannot build houses on the land as it is no longer yours,” he told reporters after launching the new Suzuki SX4 Sedan 1.6 at Rhino Automart Sdn Bhd at Jalan Tun Jugah here.

Aware that the opposition might play up the issue for political mileage, he said the enforcement operation by the Land and Survey Department did not affect any house erected within Native Customary Land nearby.

“I hope Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) or Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen and members do not play up the issue. You cannot go against the law of the land. Whether you are in the government or opposition, you must abide by the law,” he said.

He pointed out that the state government had been fair in handling the matter, by giving ample time for the residents in the affected areas to move out.

“Effectively they are rural squatters and the government has to get rid of them because they are squatting on government land.

“I think they have been given ample warning, since about two years ago. The authorities in fact wanted to abolish the houses before election, but we told them to hold back first,” he said.

The Land and Survey Department, in a press statement issued Tuesday, said it was

compelled to carry out the operation also on Tuesday as the squatters had failed to comply with a Notice to Quit dated October 2, 2007.

The notice required them to vacate the state land within 30 days from the date of the notice.

Bintulu Land and Survey superintendent Ajmaen Superi, was also quoted in the statement as saying that the operation did not affect any houses erected within Native Customary Land.

Ajmaen also pointed out that the department and the district officers of Bintulu and Belaga had conducted a dialogue session on Nov 1, 2007 with the affected squatters.

A press release was also published in a local daily on Nov 8 by the Belaga District Office on the matter

The objective of the dialogue, he said, was to explain and clarify the status of the said land and the grounds of the enforcement.

Apart from that, he said officers of the department, with the assistance of the police, had visited each and every illegal house to advise and to inform the squatters to comply with the quit notice.

“Each and every action taken by the department with regard to this issue is within the ambit of power conferred thereunder by the Land Code (Cap 81),” said Ajmaen.

Masing was also asked on the condition of Assistant Minister of Agriculture and Sports Datuk Dublin Unting, who is now in a coma at Normah Medical Specialist Centre here where he was admitted following a stroke on May 21.

Masing, who is Parti Rakyat Sarawak president, said Unting who is the vice president in the party is in stable condition.

“It will take quite a while for him to recover. We hope and pray for the better,” he said.
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