Kota Kinabalu: The Land and Survey Department plans to introduce a new Land Alienation Policy, a systematic approach to help resolve land application problems by prioritising landless and poor kampung folks in Sabah.

Director Osman Jamal (pic) said the new policy is part of changes he would be proposing to the State Government to further enhance the department's delivery system as well as reduce - if not eliminate - the common land complaints by the people at the grassroots level.

He was briefing a delegate from the Putatan Parliamentary office accompanied by representatives of BN component parties led by Putatan MP, Datuk Dr Marcus Mojigoh at the new Wisma Tanah dan Ukur near Wisma Kewangan here.

According to him, the State has about 500,000 hectares of land left and it would not be sufficient to give everyone, hence the need for a fairer method of distribution that emphasises on the people who really need land, especially in the rural areas.

At one time, he said the distribution of State land was imbalanced with a total of about 350,000ha being allocated to Country Lease (CL) land (normally to companies) and only about 60,000ha allocated as Native Title (NT) land.

"That is why people were complaining. But when the Barisan Nasional took over in 1994, the situation changed where it became more balanced. Still, those who got the land kept quiet while people who did not get it made noise," he said.

He said the proposed new policy basically means that the department would go direct to the ground from one village to another in all the districts in Sabah to look at the available State land in the particular area and the number of kampung folk really in need of land.

Priority would be given to those who are poor and landless because the policy's other objective would be to assist in eradicating poverty, he said, adding that after identifying the available State land acreage in a particular village, the department would do the zoning to sub-divide the land into NT and CL before working together with the respective elected representatives on it.

As for land matters in urban areas, Osman said the approach would see all land applications being frozen and the land swap method put in place on a value-to-value basis to ensure a win-win situation. Another proposal was restructuring of the Land and Survey Department's organisation. Citing an example he said the department only has one deputy director who is burdened by a tremendous workload being responsible for so many aspects of the department.

Several other state departments have three deputy directors who do the workload for a more efficient service, he said.

"There are posts which are important but left vacant," he said, adding that the department now has about 2,800 personnel with a majority of them in the field.

"We only have about 80 personnel to process the outstanding 265,000 land applications in Sabah," he said, adding the people would surely be unhappy if told that the department would take about 20 years to process their applications since it could only process about 16,500 land applications per year. In order to become more efficient, Osman said the department needed to boost its Information Technology and Communication (ICT) infrastructure to assist in the planning for the Land Alienation Policy and at the end of the day enhance its delivery system.

"We need Federal help on this. Although land is a State matter we want Federal to come in just to establish the system for the database but not to use the database. We want help in terms of hardware and software," he said, adding that this needed at least RM120 million.

Presently, a pilot project called e-Tanah was being implemented in Penang and together with the ECadestre system (Coordinated Cadastral Survey System), which had taken off in Peninsular Malaysia, it virtually means issuance of land titles could be done without the need for surveying and measuring in the field.

In this respect, he said the department hoped Mojigoh, who is a certified land surveyor and a former officer in the department, would be able to raise the matter in Parliament, especially in getting the financial assistance from Federal to set up the needed ICT infrastructure in the Department. Osman said when he took over the department from Datuk Mohd Jafri, he was tasked to look into enhancement of its delivery system.

He said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman is expected to make various announcements pertaining to the department's role and function.

Mojigoh assured that he would raise the matter with the Federal Government in his capacity as a Member of Parliament during the Ninth Malaysia Plan mid-term review sittings.

"The civil service like the Land and Survey Department is the backbone of the Government. Without them we will be handicapped and they deserve a pat in the back, not just criticism, because we know they are working as hard as they can for the benefit of the people," he said.

Source: Daily Express News (Malaysia), July 8, 2007.