By Renny Milaga

KUCHING: Land Development Minsiter Dato Sri James Jemut Masing said the government is only a “match maker” between landowners and investors and the government recommends the investors and unless there is consent given by the people the government will not ask investors to come and develop such NCR land.

Masing as reported in the local daily said that all land development projects involving Native Customary Rights (NCR) land in Sarawak have always been carried out on mutual consent and there is no question of the government or investors forcing NCR landowners to give up their land for oil palm cultivation.

But why is the opposition always trying to discredit the government by making all sorts of allegation against NCR land development projects? Is the development of NCR land which the opposition alleges to be the government’s way of taking away land from the natives?

Everybody knows that in Sarawak the government is not taking away land from the natives and it is timely for Masing as Land Development Minister to remind the people not to be confused by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or opposition political parties who always harp on the development of NCR land.

Members of the opposition only talk fluidly without substance, they just talk on anything they like regardless of whether they are relevant to the people, state or country or not. Obviously they are very ignorant of all the government development policies set out to bring better economic changes to the people.

The vast track of NCR which are mostly kept idled, under-utilized and unproductive should be transformed into an economic asset through large-scale plantation estates. This will generate substantial benefits and economic growth to landowners. As outlined by Masing, the benefits that landowners will reap from such land development are – firstly the guarantee or security that the affected land will be surveyed and secondly with efficient management there will be profit sharing between investors and landowners as well as the government. Thirdly, normally roads will be built when there is land development carried out, which will open up other land in the area and the people will benefit from easy communication. When there is road built, it is the people in the area who will benefit the most and also the project will create ample job opportunities for the local people in particular.

While the landowners are rich in land they have continued to remain poor. They have been engaged in tradition and sub-sistence agricultural activities and are very dependent on government assistance and subsidies. This has not been able to bring about much progress and stable income to the landowners. They have be progressive and independent from solely getting government assistance in their pursuits for improved socio-economic setting in the rural areas.

The rural communities must not be left out from the main-stream of development that is taking place in the country towards achieving Vision 2020. Landowners who are not prepared to change will be left behind; those who are left behind will lose, and those who continue to lose will remain poor forever. Large-scale plantation development is the most logical and perhaps the best option to bring them out of poverty.

As pointed out by Masing it is in the best interest especially of the landowners, that the government is intensifying the development of NCR land throughout Sarawak and currently due to the increasing awareness and good response from NCR landowners towards the development of their land into commercial or estate ventures, the government had approved 32 investors for palm oil sector.

It is my fervent hope that landowners who had vast tract of NCR land should regroup themselves and if they wish to have joint ventures on their lands should write to Ministry of Land Development so that the match-making process with investors could be carried out speedily.

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