Engaging All Quarters Crucial in Resolving Land Issues: LEAP

As part of an assessment of a local land rights programme, two independent evaluators met the Sabah Lands and Surveys Department to gather information on related issues, in particular claims for native customary rights (NCR).

The recent meeting saw Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) Executive Director Cynthia Ong and independent consultant Birgitte Feiring of Denmark, getting feedback from Department Director Datuk Osman Jamal and his Deputy (Land) Lee Chun Khiong on land ownership among natives, including the state’s current focus in issuing Communal Titles.

Ong and Feiring sought the meeting to get the Government’s perspective on land claims, a subject that remains controversial as individuals, communities and private entities continue to apply for land ownership.

“We visited several remote villages in Tenom, Keningau, Tongod and Ranau last week, and one of the main grouses raised by communities was their right to land ownership.

“To make a fair assessment of the situation, we followed up by speaking to lawyers, the media and to Government departments. We are glad that the Lands and Surveys Department was open to answering some of our queries,” she said in a statement issued today by LEAP.

Ong and Feiring spent 10 days until Oct 26 evaluating local NGO Partners of Community Organisations (PACOS) Trust’s Land Rights and Natural Resource Management programme.

The evaluation will provide the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) with an assessment on the impacts, results and effectiveness of activities carried out under the said programme.

Ong said it is important to continue engaging with all quarters in finding solutions to complicated issues, such as land ownership. She said some situations may require solutions that are based on unique characteristics of a certain area or community.

(From left) Independent consultant Birgitte Feiring and Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) Executive Director Cynthia Ong in a discussion with Sabah Lands and Surveys Department Director Datuk Osman Jamal and his Deputy (Land) Lee Chun Khiong.
Independent consultant Birgitte Feiring (left) and Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP) Executive Director Cynthia Ong getting answers from Sabah Lands and Surveys Department Director Datuk Osman Jamal (right) on the issuance of titles to natives.

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In a related development, LEAP Executive Director Cynthia Ong and independent consultant Birgitte Feiring of Denmark took part in media dialogue with representatives from several local Sabah newspapers. The following is an article that appeared in the Daily Express, as a result of the Press meet.

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