Illegal houses at Semporna marine park demolished for security reason

KOTA KINABALU (June 7): One hundred and thirty-eight unauthorised settlements within the Tun Sakaran Marine Park (TSMP) area in Semporna have been demolished for security reason.

The Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry said a total of 273 unauthorised settlements within the TSMP area have been issued evacuation notice prior to the demolition and evacuation exercise.

The demolition and evacuation exercises of the unauthorised settlements were held from June 4 to 6, with 138 unauthorised settlements demolished in the hot zone, the ministry’s statement said.

It also stated that other houses were demolished by the owners themselves, and some owners left their homes.

The statement also said that according to sources from the PDRM (Royal Malaysia Police) involved in the operation, some homeowners burned their houses during the absence of the operation team in the area for the purpose of going viral on social media and garnering sympathy and attention from netizens.

“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 force in this issue must be upheld,” the ministry stated.

Before Hari Raya Aidilfitri, two Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) officers were injured by gunmen in waters off Kunak, with one of them sustaining permanent blindness in one eye.

The ministry also reminded that from the perspective of compliance with the Parks Enactment 1984, TSMP is one of the areas proclaimed as a Park area or a State Park.

“Any violations of provisions under the Enactment, such as fishing, erecting structures without permission, and farming, empower Sabah Parks to take actions 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 against the Enactment,” the ministry stated.

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

The ministry issued the statement following social media postings on the recent evacuation, demolition and burning of houses/shacks built within the TSMP in Semporna.

It was also mentioned that the Sabah Parks authority and the Semporna district police chief chaired a meeting on the distribution of the TSMP evacuation notice on April 26, and the operation to deliver the evacuation notice took place from May 2 to 4.

The agencies involved are the PDRM, Marine Police, Semporna District Office, ESSCom, Immigration Department, National Registration Department and Semporna District Council.

Notices were distributed to 273 unauthorised settlements built within TSMP.

Local NGO Borneo Komrad founder Mukmin Nantang said the operation was carried out against the Bajau Laut community living on seven islands in Semporna, including Pulau Bohey Dulang, Pulau Maiga, Pulau Bodgaya, Pulau Sebangkat and Pulau Sibuan.

He said the demolition highlighted critical issues of racism, developmental injustice and statelessness in Sabah.

Human rights NGO Pusat KOMAS, meanwhile, said in a statement on Friday that the Bajau Laut, who practise a nomadic lifestyle at sea and live in small boats or houses on stilts in coastal areas, faced systemic discrimination.

It said their forced removal raised serious questions about the equitable treatment of ethnic minorities in Malaysia.

“It is imperative to ensure that all communities are respected and protected under national and international human rights laws.

“We are deeply concerned by this (demolition and eviction). At its core, human rights laws establish that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” it added.

It pointed out that Article 8 of the Federal Constitution provides for all citizens to be afforded equal protection under the law and that discrimination is prohibited based on religion, race, descent, place of birth, or gender.