FreeMalaysiaTodayBy Joseph Tawie
KUCHING: Fourteen Ibans representing 276 families from 15 longhouses and villages in Sebangan/Sebuyau area have filed a writ of summons at the Kuching High Court today against Raziah Taib's company Quality Concrete Holding. Raziah is Chief Minister Taib Mahmud's sister.
She is a major shareholder and director in the company.
The writ was filed by Messrs Baru Bian Advocates and Solicitors. Also named in the suit are the Loyal Billion Sdn Bhd (second defendant), a penghulu and headmen (third and fourth defendants), the Forest Department and the state government (fifth and sixth defendants).
The plaintiffs are Numpang Anak Suntai, Samuel Anak Neli, Sadun Anak Asson, Tinsy Anak Bunda, Sanyam Anak Daun, Apat Anak Hamba, Philip Anak Bakat, Bawi Anak Saman, Anih Anak Bidie, Aprit Anak Bagih, Neli Anak Nipa, Sidi Anak Gama, Lingga Anak Tasi and Unga Anak Gamit.
In their statement of claim, the plaintiffs said their NCR land consists part of their native customary land or communal land or territorial domain locally referred to as “Pemakai Menua” or “Pulau” (preserved forests) and/or “temuda” (farmed land or secondary forests) created before Jan 1, 1998. They noted that NCR is recognised by the Sarawak Land Code (Cap. 81) 1958.
Their claim noted that the said NCR land comprised hilly or mountainous region and is part and parcel of a bigger area claimed by the plaintiffs as their respective native customary land or “pemakai menua” surrounding their respective villages.
They claim that the 5th and 6th defendants (the Forest Department and the state government respectively) had infact gazetted in 1959 part of the said NCR land as a Communal Forest for seven vilages - Kampung Entanggor, Kampung Stika, Kampung Ensika, Kampung Sekitong, Kampung Sungai Lumut, Kampung Sungai Arus and kampung Tungkah Dayak - under gazette notification No.760.
The plaintiffs said that on or about the June 11, 2010, they discovered that members of Quality Concrete Holdings and Loyal Billion had trespassed on their NCR land.
They were constructing logging roads and at the same time extracting timber from within the said NCR land. The plaintives said the land did not fall under any licensed area issued to Quality Concrete or Loyal Billion, the defendants.
The plaintiffs immediately lodged police reports at Sebuyau police station but no action was taken by the relevant authority.
On or about June 14, the plaintiffs’ representatives met the camp manager, who was known as Wong and some workers from the companies' site office called Rantau along Sungai Sebangan.
They informed Wong and his team to stop their logging activities and road constructions immediately as they were trespassing into the plaintiffs said NCR land. They agreed to do so while the plaintiffs lodged a police report.
On the advise of Sergeant Ramlee, from the Sebuyau police station, a meeting was held on the June 22, 2010 at Sebuyau District Office with regards to the issue. The meeting between plantiffs and the companies' reps was chaired by the Penghulu Merum (3rd defendent).
No agreement was reached as the companies, represented by a man named Lau claimed that they were licensed to extract timber from the said NCR land.
Loss and damages
On June 24, some 100 Ibans (plantiffs) made another visit to the trespassed area and found the defendants still working within the said NCR land.
In fact the plantifs said during their visit they found more land had been logged and destroyed.
The keys to all the logging machineries were handed over to the plaintiffs who in turn surrendered it to the police at the Sebuyau police station. This was done in the hope that such trespassing would immediately stop and the matter will be investigated by the police.
On the July 2, a meeting was held at Sebuyau District Office between the plaintiffs’ representatives and the defendents representative, Robert Tiang and his lawyer Lim Heng Choo.
Also present at the meeting were representatives from the Sarawak Forests Corporation (Semilang), Forests Department Sarawak (Romy Pudong), Lands & Surveys, Sarawak (Atin Rimpa), Sarawak Administrative Officer, Sebuyau (Abdul Rahman) and Sebuyau Police Department (Ramlee).
On the July 23, the plaintiffs had no choice but to erect a physical blockade against Quality Concrete and Loyal Billion onsite to stop their trespassing.
Following the blockade there were no logging activities for a few day. The plaintiffs left the trespassed site.
By a memorandum or “Resolusi” or letter dated August 18 and Sept 3, 2010, the plaintiffs made their stand in disagreeing and opposing the said illegal logging activities by Quality Concrete and Loyal Billion.
The 'resolusi' was handed to the Resident Kota Samarahan and to Suhakam.
As there was no action taken by the relevant authorities in favour of the plaintiffs, they decided once again on the Oct 15 to erect another blockade against the defendants, this time at a place called Selabu, along Sungai Sebangan.
After four days of blockade, seven of the plaintiffs were arrested and detained by the police. All were released eventually without any charge preferred against them.
As a consequence of the said trespass the plaintiffs have suffered losses and damages and will suffer more hereafter, which cannot be compensated by any order of costs.
Listing particulars of loss and damages, plantiffs claimed Sungai Selabu, Sungai Ijuk and Sungai Sebangan were found to be polluted and had affected their lives.
They said the water reservoir and the pipe waters which fed the populace at Sebangan Bazaar was now polluted and murky.
Farmed areas or padi fields or temuda within the Sungai Selabu area are also affected by polluted water. Also destroyed were their hunting grounds and fishing grounds.
They also claimed that fruit trees, like rubber, engkabang, pepper, durians, langsat, rambutan, temedak, mawang and cocoa planted by the plaintiffs and their forefathers were destroyed and felled for the companies' benefits.
The plaintiffs requested that the loss and damages suffered by the plaintiffs be assessed by the Deputy Registrar of the High Court.
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs’ lawyer Baru Bian said that the case originated from the Sebangan and Sebuyau area where seven natives were arrested and released without being charged.
“We found out in our investigation that the so-called timber licences were encroaching into the native customary rights land. To reach the licensed areas given to them they need to go through NCR land.
“In the process, they built logging roads and at the same time felled and took the timbers along these roads; these are not the licensed areas. So they were trespassing and encroaching on NCR land.
“This is not the first case. This is the tip of the iceberg in Sarawak,” he said, pointing out that in their experience dealing with NCR land cases this has been an ongoing issue from Lundu to Lawas.
He said that he was aware that the natives (plantiffs) have written letters to the authorities, to the Resident, police and letters of protest to Suhakam.
“They have tried all the avenues, no one is listening to them...they decided to take action into their own hands by putting up blockades.
"My point here is this. This is not an isolated case. This is on-going and it is happening throughout the state of Sarawak.
“To me as a lawyer, as people involved in this, it boils down to the policy of the present government and the people in authorities who are not bothered with the rights of the people.
“It is very unfortunate we are talking about the native rights of the indigenous people of Sarawak which are supposed to be protected by the government of the day with the special provision of the law of Malaysia.
“And yet we see here in Sarawak it is not the case. Because of this we are very concerned as people and therefore we bring this matter to the court.