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Palauh homeowners allegedly torch houses to gain sympathy says Datuk Christina Liew

KOTA KINABALU: Datuk Christina Liew says the Palauh allegedly torch their houses to gain public sympathy.

The Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister said this information was shared by police sources involved in the demolition operation recently.

“According to sources from police involved in the operation, some homeowners burnt their houses during the absence of the operations team in the area to make this issue go viral on social media and to garner sympathy and attention from netizens,” she said in a statement Friday.

In explaining the operation, Liew said it was conducted for safety reasons following the issuance of eviction notices to the nomadic Bajau Laut (Palauh) community residing within the Tun Sakaran Marine Park (TSMP).

She said the evacuation, demolition and burning of the houses or shacks was done according to the law.

“This operation was carried out due to security issues at the district level, following shooting incidents in Darvel Bay and cross-border criminal activities in the unauthorised settlement locations.

“The sovereignty of the nation’s laws in this issue must be upheld,” Liew said.

She said before the operation from June 4 to June 6, a meeting chaired by Sabah Parks and the Semporna district police chief on the issuance of the TSMP evacuation notices was held on April 26.

She said the operation to distribute the notices took place from May 2 to May 4, involving agencies such as the police, marine police, Semporna District Office, Eastern Sabah Security Command, Immigration Department, National Registration Department and Semporna District Council.

“Notices were distributed to a total of 273 unauthorised settlements built within TSMP,” said Liew.

She said during the demolition and evacuation of these unauthorised settlements, a total of 138 structures were destroyed in the hot zones.

“Meanwhile, other houses were demolished by the owners themselves, and some owners left their homes as is,” she said.

From the perspective of compliance with the Parks Enactment 1984, Liew said TSMP is one of the areas proclaimed as a Park area or a State Park.

Thus, she said any violations of provisions under the Enactment, such as fishing, erecting structures without permission, and farming, empower Sabah Parks to take action accordingly.

The issue of deforestation on Bodgaya Island for agricultural purposes and the construction of over 200 structures without permission is an example of a violation of the Enactment, added Liew.

She said all actions that have been implemented have been agreed upon by the relevant agencies in several meeting sessions, including with eight legitimate representatives of the TSMP community who unanimously requested the immediate removal of the unauthorised group from the area.

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