KUCHING: The Sarawak Land and Survey Department has clarified that all genuine native customary rights (NCR) land within the vicinity of Kampung Stenggang in Bau near here is excluded in the provisional lease (PL) issued to a plantation company.

The land's status, encompassing 1,419.13ha, had been verified through diligent check on aerial photographs taken back in 1954, contrary to allegations that the department was "robbing" the villagers of their NCR land, it said in a statement here on April 15.

"The aerial photographs clearly indicate that the land was once virgin jungle.

"Staff of the department have been maximising aerial photograph technology to determine the land status and land use in facilitating approvals for land applications," it said when refuting a local news report that it had issed a PL on 1,986ha without the villagers' knowledge.

It was, therefore, unfair to accuse the department of merely approving applications in the office without having any knowledge of the situation on the ground as IT equipment and high-resolution cameras were also utilised to assist in processing land applications, it added.

In Sarawak, PL is issued to expedite development but any genuine NCR claims found within the perimeter survey boundary will be excluded.

Alternatively, with consent from genuine native claimants, the department may invoke Section 15 of the Land Code to enable them to be adequately and fairly compensated.

The department said landowners who felt that their NCR land had been encroached upon by plantation companies could bring up their cases as it had never failed to recognise genuine NCR land.

This was evidenced in the case in Niah, Miri, where the department invoked Section 15 of the Sarawak Land Code after residents of Rumah Chang successfully proved that they had NCR on the land based on the permit issued.

It said every effort was being made to ensure that land applications were processed in an orderly manner and sensationalising land matters could create further confusion, which could misguide the people. -- Bernama