World Rainforest Movement

LETTER FROM MIRI CENTRAL PRISON AT LAMBIR SARAWAK, MALAYSIA

To all our friends,
We are writing to all of you from inside the above prison to tell you of our suffering and how we had ended up here. On 24th June 1997 we met with Surveyors from the Sarawak land and Survey Department who came to survey our native Customary Land in Upper Teru River, Tinjar, Baram, Miri Division, Sarawak, Malaysia for an oil palm plantation company to implement an oil palm plantation scheme which was against our consent.
We told them to stop their survey work so they told us to wait for their boss to come the next day. At about 3.30 pm on 25th June 1997, it was not their boss who came but about not less than forty Para-Military Police or Police Field Force. As soon as they arrived they immediately proceeded to arrest us without telling us our crime. We refused to be arrested. But they resorted to assaulting and beating us by kicking, punching us and butting us with their M16 rifles. As a result many of us were bruised and suffered cuts and pains all over our body. They took us into their trucks and brought us down to Miri and locked us up in the cell at Miri Central Police Station.
On 26th June 1997, they produced us before the Miri magistrate Court and applied for us to be released on bond to keep the peace for six months with two sureties in the sum of RM3000.00. The Miri Magistrate, Monica Ayathi Litis then Ordered us to execute the said bond despite of our protest as we were innocent and the Land belongs to us and also that we refused to accept the oil palm plantation on our said Land. And further, the Police admitted in their application that “it was difficult to charge us for any offence” (which clearly shows we are totally innocent). The Police accused us that we have criminally intimidated the Surveyors and are likely to do so if we are released hence the need to bind us to keep peace. But as the Police themselves had admitted, there is no evidence to charge us for any offence. And most pertinently, they did not even produce the alleged Police report supposedly lodged by the Surveyors against us or call the Surveyors to come to the Court to testify to confirm whether or not we had indeed criminally intimated (and will do so after our release) the Surveyors. Therefore the Police application and complaint against us was baseless and the order made by the Magistrate was completely unjustified.
On the 27th June 1997 at about 4.00 pm, we were brought to prison here for detention which according to the Magistrate was because we failed to get sureties which is again not true. There are more than enough sureties for us. But that is not the point here. Our case is that it is simply wrong and most unfair for the Police to arrest, detain, assault us and then apply for the Order. And further, it is against all principle of justice for the Magistrate to make the said order against us. And most important of all, it is very undemocratic and an abuse of our most basic human rights for the Sarawak government to systematically force, harassed, intimidated, suppressed and sabotaged us to accept the oil palm plantation on our customary Land which is the only source of our livelihood.
Since our arrest and detention, some of us who are suffering from body pain that being beaten, kicked, punched and butting us with M16 rifles could not be able to have medical treatment as the Police purportedly denied their requests from obtaining medical/health treatment in the nearby hospital. Worse still, our young children who are breast-fed have been left alone in our longhouse in the interior of Baram, which is about one hundred miles from this prison. This is because our husbands are also here detained with us. We know siblings are crying for our breast milk, our mother care every day and night not knowing where their parents are or what is happening to us here. But to us, it is a very painful choice. Either we make some sacrifices by fighting to protect our land now or we just let the plantation company take it away from us which means we will have no more land to live on for the rest of our life and those of our generations to come. And therefore we now appeal to all of you to urgently protest and appeal to the Malaysian and Sarawak governments to leave our land alone and also not to simply and very cruelly arrest and detain us like this. We know our voice and protest alone will just be swept under the carpet by the Malaysian and Sarawak governments as has happened in the arrests and detentions of our other indigenous brothers and sisters in similar protests previously. This is the reason we make this urgent appeal to you.
We sincerely and earnestly hope you will respond to our appeal because if we lose our land that is the end for our community as we have no where to go to live. We thank you for your support and we appreciate very much for any possible assistance or welfare-in-kind for our children and siblings while we are here in the prison.
Thank you.
Regards from the Prison,
Francis Anak Imban & 38 others