NCR landowners eye RM571 million under 11MP

KUCHING: Sarawak has applied for RM571 million under the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016 to 2020) to fund the development of native customary rights (NCR) land, said Sarawak’s Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing. 

“This is the first time Sarawak is applying to federal government for grants to develop NCR land. This RM571 million should be able to cover the planting of oil palm and rubber trees across 36,000ha, in the next five years.

“We hope the federal government will fund this cause to raise the living standards of natives here,” he told Business Times in an interview here recently. 

NCR land essentially means rights acquired by the native landowners in accordance with the native customary law of the communities prior to 1 January 1958 as set out in Section 5(2) of Sarawak Land Code.

With a funding boost from the federal government, Masing said his ministry’s agencies such as the Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA) and Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra) can help more NCR landowners develop idle plots and reap the benefits of economies of scale.

He explained that when idle land of the NCR landowners is developed into modern plantation estates, their families get faster access to basic infrastructure such as roads, bridges, piped water and electricity on their land. 

Other amenities such as housing, healthcare, schools and access to public transportation that come with this collaboration also go to raising the value of their land, in the years ahead.

As at 2014, the minister said around 235,000ha of NCR land is already planted with oil palms. The development of NCR land is being carried out by Salcra, Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Felcra), independent smallholding and on joint venture basis via LCDA.

Masing said boundary survey of NCR land is capital intensive but a pre-requisite for land development. The Sarawak state government recognises that issuance of land titles would ensure that NCR land ownership can be properly passed down to the younger generations via inheritance. 

Land titles would also settle disputes and enable landowners to venture into business and commerce by mortgaging their land for start-up capital. This is line with the state government's vision to create more middle-class natives earning high income.

Masing noted the Sarawak government had also applied for RM200 million to the federal government under the 11th Malaysia Plan for perimeter and individual lot survey. “More funding to carry on this initiative will certainly help solve many boundary disputes cases at the courts,” he said.

Since 2011, Sarawak's Land and Survey Department had started to gazette plots of NCR land under Section 6 of the Sarawak Land Code, after perimeter surveys. As of todate, the state government has conducted perimeter surveys across 650,000ha of NCR land.

Masing explained perimeter survey determines the boundaries and size of land to rightful owners. Once gazetted as Native Communal Reserve under Section 6 of the Sarawak Land Code, the record is kept at the Land and Survey Department and the District Office. 

A copy is also extended to the community head. “Basically, the gazette itself is legal proof that their land  has been surveyed and rightfully belongs to the community.” After gazetting, the plots of land are then surveyed in detail for individual plots under Section 18, where NCR landowners are accorded their individual titles. 

“There had been many disputes and controversy when boundaries of NCR and state land is not easily determined. We want to continue with this perimeter and individual lot surveys to establish the boundaries and rightful owners of the estimated 1.5 million ha of NCR land in Sarawak,” he added.