S'WAK POLLS The Sarawak BN government today awarded individual land rights to 373 squatters in rural Miri, who will now be relocated to proper housing in the satellite town of Tudan.
The recipients were from three squatter villages in the Piasau constituency, namely Kampung Pasir, Kampung Api-Api and Kampung Merican.
The three villages are mainly Dayak areas. Dayaks make up about half of Piasau's 41 percent bumiputera voters.
One of the elated recipients from Kampung Merican, Robert Banda told Malaysiakini he and the other villagers had been waiting for 12 years to get the land title.
Asked whether the timing was meant to coincide with the election, Robert said he had a gut feeling that it was.
"But it doesn't matter as long as I get the land."
He also noted that the government had been relocating the villagers gradually in phases over the years.
BN candidate for Piasau, Sebastian Ting, meanwhile, rubbished notions that the timing of the land rights award ceremony had anything to do with this Saturday's election.
"The government has been doing this all the time for many years [...] it is addressing an existing problem," Ting said.
Earlier in his speech, Sarawak's Second Resource Planning and Environment Minister Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said the awarding of land rights proved that BN was working for the people.
"The opposition hasn't done anything, they just 'action' (strut)," Awang Tengah said to applause from the audience.
Besides the 373 land rights for the Piasau squatters, Awang Tengah also handed over 104 individual land rights under Section 18 of the Sarawak Land Code for native land that fall under the Lambir and Bekenu constituencies.
The landowners will now be exempted from premium payments, annual land tax, surveying cost and also have ownership in perpetuity.
Eight community leaders, meanwhile, received land rights to one area in Kemena and two areas in Telang Usan constituency gazetted as bumiputera communal land, while another seven community leaders received land rights to government reserve villages in Lusut, Miri.
Also present at the ceremony were BN candidates for Pujut, Hii King Chiong; Senadin, Lee Kim Shin; and Lambir candidate Ripin Lamat.