Sabah government investigates demolition of Palau Community Houses in Semporna amid controversy

KOTA KINABALU – The state is investigating the circumstances of the demolition of community houses belonging to the Bajau Laut (Palau), in the Tun Sakaran Marine Park in Semporna District.

Datuk Christina Liew, State Minister for Tourism, Culture and Environment, expressed her surprise when she learned about the operation via social media, claiming to be unaware of the involvement of the authorities.

Online videos show individuals in plain clothes tearing down wooden stilt homes. Some footage shows a policeman and another person wearing a green vest.

When Liew was asked about the identity and absence of uniformed officials, she acknowledged that this was an unusual situation but said she did not know who was in control.

“I don’t know.” “I am trying to discover the real story behind this issue, because I was surprised when I got the report via social media,” said she.

Liew stated that she would make a statement after obtaining a complete report from Sabah Parks, and other officials in the field.

Liew had been asked if there was any violation of the human rights in the case. She initially replied in the negative but explained later that due to technicalities, she couldn’t give a definitive response.

She said, “I will address human rights violations once we have more details because we need to determine nationalities, nature of violations, and if these people were offered the opportunity to live somewhere else.”

Liew said that it was important to also find out if there were any counter-offers or rejections by the Palau community if offers to move inland had been made.

She said: “I’m sure that the authorities had their reasons for what they did, but I’d like to go beyond just saying whether or not there were violations.”

The demolition, which took place from 4 to 6 June, involved seven islands, including Pulau Bohey dulang, Pulau Maiga and Pulau Bodgaya.

Many non-governmental organizations have condemned the demolition. They claim that hundreds of Palauans have lost their homes as a result of what they call an inhumane, and rights-violating, action.

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