KOTA BELUD: Dusun villagers in Tempasuk near here threaten to rise up against the government to stop any attempts to evict them for a development project.
They remain apprehensive over what they see as a land-grab and their displacement for a purported agropolitan development project just a few months after a near showdown with the authorities.
Kampungs Bungaliu and Bubuk are the target areas for the project and recent visits by “official” groups complete with police escorts have stirred anxieties again.
The villagers have since erected fences around the lands they claim as theirs.
In a joint statement yesterday with Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) leader, Peter Marajin, village head Antonis Angkup warned the authorities not to underestimate the natives’ determination to prevent the takeover of their NCR land for the 3,000-acre project.
Angkup has already had one run-in with Tempasuk assemblyman, Musbah Jamli, a strong political ally of Chief Minister Musa Aman, who summoned him to his office after he heard of the protests by the villagers.
Survey works were held up for a while but appear to have resumed.
“We relented and removed the fences recently so that the government vehicles, including the police escorts, could enter the areas.
“This time the natives relented but they will not allow this to continue. We shall fight for our rights until the whole world knows that there is a government which bulldozes projects and displaces the natives,” they said in their joint statement here.
The villagers, mostly Dusun Tindals, do not want a confrontation with the government, but they will rise to fight any attempt to evict them to make way for the agropolitan development project, they said.
“How could they plan to take away our native customary rights (NCR) land already planted with rubber trees and then replant it with rubber trees?” Angkup asked.
‘Rubber is not food’
The villagers said their suspicions were aroused when outsiders again started coming to their kampungs, claiming they were from the Forestry Department.
According to the villagers, the groups carried certain gadgets and left behind plastic markers at various points in the areas.
“We don’t know what they were doing but we are aware that the government tends to ignore the natives when it comes to projects and NCR lands.
“Our message is simple: Listen to the people and their aspirations. Engage us as stakeholders of any public projects. Please don’t treat us as merely the receiving-end of just any of your development ideas.
“Some of these ill-conceived projects are a waste of public money and time and have brought misery to the people,” Angkup said.
Hundreds of villagers from the two affected kampungs are determined to stop any survey of the land planted with rubber trees and cash crops, including hill paddy.
According to their estimate, of the 3,000 acres identified for the agropolitan development project in Tempasuk, 800 acres are in nearby Rosok Kanibungan, while the remaining 2,200 acres would be carved out from the Bungaliu and Bubuk NCR areas.
Angkup claimed that he has been warned by the district office not to object to the proposed federal government-funded project to make Kota Belud a major food producer.
“The villagers don’t quite know what is on the authority’s mind when they say ‘food producer’. They also heard the government plans to plant rubber trees there. Surely rubber trees are not a staple food,” Marajin added.