SIMUNJAN – Seven Ibans villagers are currently being detained by the police at the Simunjan Police Station for allegedly causing mischief by fire to a logging company’s machinery and their workers quarters.
|Providing Moral Support|
4 villagers were arrested last night, which include 2 headmen. They are Tuai Rumah Philip Anak Bakat of Kampung Tungkah Atas, Tuai Rumah Neli Anak Nipa of Kampung Bajong Ili, Bawi Anak Atman of Kampung Tungkah Baroh Manta and Tinsi Anak Bunda of Kampung Lumut.
In an FMT report on Oct 19, natives from the six long houses in Sebuyau/Sebanggan had predicted that they would be blamed for the fire which destroyed a campsite belonging to Royal Billion, a company linked to the politically-powerful Quality Concrete Holdings.
3 more villagers were arrested at 2.30 this afternoon. They are Tuai Rumah Sadun Anak Aton and Nicholas Mujah of Kampung Ensika and Numpang Anak Suntai of Kampung Bajong. Nicholas Mujah also happens to be the Secretary General of the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) and a member of the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (JOAS).
About 200 villagers were present at the police station to give support to their comrades who were arrested.
The arrest were made in connection with the recent fire that destroyed a block of two storey quarters occupied by timber workers, a store, six tractors, two logging trucks a pick-up and an excavator belonging to a logging contractor Royal Billion Sdn. Bhd. which is contracted to extract logs for Quality Concrete Holdings in the area purportedly to be within the native customary rights (NCR) of six Iban longhouses in Sebuyau.
The logging company, Quality Concrete Holdings, has been in the centre of dispute after the Forest Department has given it a licence to carry out logging activities in the disputed 3,305 hectares of forests which the Ibans from six longhouses claim to be their NCR land.The Director of Quality Concrete is Raziah Mahmud who also happens to be the Sarawak Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud’s sister.
When negotiations failed the Ibans have also brought their case with the Police, the district and resident offices, the lands and surveys and the Forest department.
When all these failed, the natives since last Friday have erected a blockade to stop the workers from the Royal Billion company encroaching into their native customary rights land.
They have also stopped a “tongkang” or barge from loading timber that has been extracted from the disputed area.
Just before Nicholas Mujah got detained, we managed to talk to him on the phone and he said that he sense that there is a strong urgency by the company to target the blame on him.
According to Mujah, the policeman at the station told him that the contractor reported him at the scene burning the machines. “But how can that be true, when I am in Sibu at that time?” exclaimed Mujah.
The villagers will be detained until Tuesday to facilitate the police in their investigations.