THE IOI Pelita land dispute with the local communities in Tinjar, Sarawak which spans 14 years has been deemed as one of the longest-running disputes in the Sarawak.
To re-cap, the dispute originated in 1997, long before palm oil conglomerate IOI Corp Bhd (IOI) inked” into a joint venture with the Land Custody and Development Authority of Sarawak (LCDA) in 2006.
Over the years, there were many attempts to resolve the dispute but they have not succeeded.
The case is complex as it involves eight community groups and approximately 505 households, along with the Sarawak State Government which considers the land as state land.
Three years ago, IOI Pelita launched a three-stage resolution plan which was approved by Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
Since then, IOI Pelita has been following the resolution plan closely with the involvement and assistance from RSPO, LCDA, the Sarawak state government and two non-governmental organisations (NGOs), namely Grassroots and the Communities Information and Communications Centre (CICOM).
As a result of the close involvement and assistance from these stakeholders, a significant breakthrough in the dispute resolution process was reached on March 17 in Miri at a dialogue session held by the Sarawak state government with all the eight community groups.
The dialogue session was chaired by the Acting Residen of Miri Abdul Aziz Mohamad Yusuf and attended by, among others, by the Assistant State Minister of Local Government and Housing, Datuk Dr Penguang Manggil and IOI Pelita’s representatives.
“In resolving the communities’ communal and individual land claims made during the community participatory mapping stage, IOI Pelita has offered to relinquish its interest over all the remaining land which has not been planted with oil palm by them,” IOI Corp pointed out in a media statement.
“This amounts to a sizable 5,000 hectares out of the total land area of approximately 9,000 hectares.”
In conjunction with the intended relinquishment of interest by IOI Pelita, the Sarawak State Government has made a far-reaching and unprecedented offer to declare that 5,000-acre area a Native Communal Reserve.
This subsequently grants the communities communal and individual land titles which give better legal rights and protections to the communities than the native customary rights.
IOI Pelita’s offer is conditional on all parties to the dispute reaching an agreement on the exact terms of the final dispute settlement.
“These terms will be discussed at the upcoming last stage of the resolution process, the negotiation stage, where expert advice will also be offered to the communities,” noted IOI Corp.
“The negotiation stage will commence as soon as the current interstate travel restrictions due to the pandemic are lifted.” – March 19, 2021