World Rainforest Movement

Call for action on Sarawak

About 300 Iban of Rumah Bangga longhouse, about 100 kilometres from the town of Miri, put up a blockade to protect their Native Customary Land after two companies, Segarakam Sdn Bhd, and Prana Sdn Bhd. -which are contractors to Empresa (M) Sdn Bhd.- trespassed on and cleared their land, which resulted in extensive damages to their property.

Without notice or consultation with the Iban, the land and Survey Department -a Sarawak State government department- had issued a provisional lease to Empresa (M) Sdn Bhd, an oil palm plantation company.

Even if according to the law a survey must be done first over the leased area to determine whether other people have rights over the same area of land, the area covered by the lease includes the Native Customary Land of the Iban. However, the Iban first and only came to know of the issue when the machines of Segarakam Sdn Bhd and Prana Sdn Bhd trespassed and started clearing their customary land. Then the Iban lodged a police report at Beluru Police Station, in Bakong, Sarawak. They also addressed the Land and Survey Department ad other government departments requesting that the lease be withdrawn or revoked or that a survey be done so that their land could be excluded from it. Their requests were completely ignored by the authorities.

Worried that the companies would continue to destroy more of their land and crops, the Iban reacted and put up a barricade, that was rapidly destroyed. Left with no other alternative, they were forced to detain three bulldozers belonging to the companies which they kept safely at their longhouse. The companies, instead of going to the court apparently went to the police and Police Field Force (PFF). On December 19, acting without any court order, warrant or summons, the police and PFF took it upon themselves to retrieve the bulldozers from the Iban at their longhouse on behalf of the said companies.

On their arrival at the Iban longhouse they immediately proceeded to arrest and detain the Iban, that turned from victims into criminals. Naturally they refused to be arrested since they were just exercising their rights to private defense to prevent their properties from the offences committed by the companies on their customary land. The police and the PFF reacted violently: several of the Iban were beaten-up with batons, punched and kicked. Without any warning or warning shots, three of the Iban were shot, one in the head. He is now in the intensive care unit of the Miri General Hospital and in critical condition.

On December 21 the police surrounded the longhouse,and a helicopter is patrolling the area. The PFF from Sibu and other parts of the State have been called to the area. The area around the longhouse and the only road leading to the longhouse is heavily patrolled by police and people trying to get to the longhouse have been denied access. Eleven people of the longhouse have been menaced by the Baram district Chief of Police to be arrested and taken to Miri town. The people in the longhouse are scared of what is to follow.

Once again Sarawak authorities and the Police are infringing the rights of native people and have resorted to a gravely unreasonable and arbitrary action in the dispute. To express your concern for this violent actions and claim that indigenous rights are once and forever respected you are invited to send faxes to the following persons:

YAB Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs
Jalan Dato Onn
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

YAB Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim
Deputy Prime Minsiter
Prime Minister’s Department
Jalan Dato Onn
Kuala Lumpur

YB Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mohamud
The Chief Minister of Sarawak
Tingkat 14, Wisma Bapa Malaysia
Petra Jaya
93502 Kuching, Sarawak

YBhg. Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor
Inspector General of Police
Police Headquaters
Bukit Aman
50560 Kuala Lumpur

The Rt. Hon. Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Hj. Mohd Eusoff Chin
The Chief Justice of the Federal Court
Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad
Kuala Lumpur

The Chief Judge of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak
Judicial Department

For more information contact Borneo Resources Instituteor Kazuko Matsue.