KUCHING: Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud’s pilot project of 10,000 hectares planted with oil palm in the Kelibut and Maong plantations in the Kanowit District is a total failure, says Sarawak PKR Chief Baru Bian.
“This plantation is a very interesting one, because it is the brain child of the chief minister on how idle native customary right (NCR) land should be developed according to ‘konsep baru’ (new concept),” he said.
Launched in 1996 by the chief minister himself, the Kelibut and Maong plantation involved some 600 native landowners.
The interesting case is that the project was harped upon by the government all these years as the best concept through which NCR land could be developed, he said.
Bian was asked to comment on the on-going court case in Sibu where 163 native landowners are suing Boustead, Pelita and the state government for the non-payment of dividends and at the same time to nullify their agreement with the company which planted the oil palm in their land at Kelibut and Maong in the Kanowit district.
He said: “This is the first pilot project. I think there is another one in Pantu.
“The sad thing is that it is not a successful enterprise. According to the claim of the landowners, they were promised to be given dividends after four years of planting, that is, in 2000 and 2001.
“But they have never received any dividends, so they came to see us in 2009 before Gawai about eight or nine years later to nullify the agreement,” said Bian, who is a lawyer and the elected representative for Ba’Kelalan.
However, when the company heard about the landowners seeing their lawyers, the company immediately released an interim dividend of RM29 per hectare to the landowners.
“Some really received only RM29 after waiting for nine years,” he said.
Bian said that he went to check with the company on the claims made by the landowners regarding the non-payment of the dividends.
He was shocked to know from the company, Boustead, Pelita and the government that the joint enterprise had a debt of over RM130 million.
“And there is no way they can pay dividends to the landowners,” he said.