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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Villagers reclaim customary land

KOTA KINABALU - Villagers at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu are reclaiming a tract of their customary land used as the site of a lodge where the 10 western tourists had stayed before stripping on the mountain last year.

After a series of meetings with the Ranau District Office and other authorities, Sabah Electricty Sdn Bhd (SESB) cut power supply to the lodge yesterday.

The move came after villagers of Kampung Bundu Tuhan complained that the lodge operator was using six containers for his business just outside the Kinabalu Park, illegally occupying their customary land.

Kampung Bundu Tuhan consultative council chairman Johnny Ghani said the move came nearly two years after villagers took action to remove the operator from their land.

He said SESB had cut electricity to the lodge after officials found out that the operator had applied for power supply using the land title of a nearby property.

“The operator was given a week to remove the containers or we will remove it for him,” Johnny added.

He said the lodge operator had asked permission from the village elder in 2013 to place several containers on a tract of village land about 1km from the Kinabalu Park entrance.

“The operator told us that he was using the containers for a lodge he has been building on his own land down the hill. Before we knew it, he began operating the lodge at that site and added more containers,” Johnny added.

He said the villagers had two years ago lodged a police report against the owner for operating illegally on their land and took action at the Native Court but he failed to turn up for the proceedings.

Last year the Ranau District Office ordered the operator to vacate the land, he said.

Johnny said the land along the Tamparuli-Kundasang trunk was important to the villagers as it had an oath stone demarcating Bundu Tuhan from Kampung Kiau.

“We also consider the area as part of the guris or spiritual line of our village,” said Johnny, who is also the Mount Kinabalu Council of Elders coordinator.

He said Bundu Tuhan folks had for generations used that land as part of the village’s annual nogimuhau or cleansing ritual.

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