Sebangan is located in the State of Sarawak, Malaysia.

Numpang Suntai and 14 others, representing 276 Iban families from the 15 longhouse communities of Kampung Entanggor, Ensika, Lumut, Arus Dayak, Tongkah Dayak, Tongkah Dayak Lubuk Manta, Tongkah Dayak Atas, Tongkah Dayak Rumah Panjai, Lunying, Belimbing Besi, Ketimbong and Bajong Ili, Bajong Ili Atas, Bajong Ili Tengah, Bajong Ili Baruh, all situated at Sebangan, Simunjan, Sarawak, filed their civil suit at the Kuching High Court on November 1st, 2010.

This case was heard at Kuching High Court on August 8th though August 19th 2011. This civil court proceeding is far from over. It is to continue on November 8th through 11th, 2011 and will reconvene again on December 19 through December 23rd, 2011.

Named as defendants in the civil suit are Quality Concrete Sdn Bhd the timber concession holder, Loyal Billion Sdn Bhd the logging contractor, 2 government appointed community leaders Penghulu Merum anak Babu and Ketua Kampung Agu anak Kaleng, together with the Director of Foresty and the Sarawak State Government.

The Sebuyau and Sebangan Ibans still need your moral and financial support to fight against illegal loggers. Your contributions will pay for the legal expenses and the cost of transportation, lodging, and food for Sebangan villagers who will be attending the proceedings in Kuching.

We desperately need your support to save our NCR heritages and our prestine environment from further destruction. If we lost this case, we will lost our land and forest to timber tycoons and oil palm plantation owners. Losing this case is losing our life line, our means of survival. Without our land and forests, we the Dayaks, the natives of Borneo, we have nothing.

In the USA please e-mail for postal address and other information. Or you can use Pay Pal by clicking Donate and you can use any credit cards to donate on-line. Thank you for you donations and support.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Another leaf turns in NCR land case saga

February 26, 2011
Taken from Hornbill Unleash
Keruah Usit

The ongoing native land case has taken another turn with one of those sued naming the lawyer responsible for preparing and witnessing a so-called “Deed of Settlement and Undertaking” between the claimants and the contractor.

The legal battle is between logging contractor Loyal Billion, representing timber licensee Quality Concrete and co-defendant Penghulu Merum Babu in the heated Native Customary Rights (NCR) land case. Loyal Billion named the counsel as Arthur Lee Cheng Chuan.

The ‘deed’, dated last Aug 30, states that local Iban NCR landowners had sold off their land rights for only RM250 per family. Iban villagers from 15 longhouses have denied knowledge of this ‘deed’.

They had lodged 23 police reports on Feb 19, claiming fraud, misrepresentation and cheating in the signing of the Deed.

Another 37 villagers lodged similar police reports in Simunjan on Feb 23 and 24, with more expected when remote villagers reach downriver Simunjan.

These villagers have been blockading the timber access road against Loyal Billion, logging contractor for Quality Concrete Holdings, the holder of the logging licence. Quality Concrete’s significant shareholders include the Sarawak Chief Minister’s family members, his sister Raziah and cousin Hamed Sepawi, among others.

They have moved from the blockade in the hills to the courtroom, claiming the loggers had encroached on their ancestral land. They filed a suit last November in the Kuching High Court, naming Quality Concrete and Loyal Billion as defendants, as well as an Iban Penghulu Merum Babu, another Iban individual, and the Sarawak government.

The communities’ legal action followed unsuccessful appeals to the authorities to protect their land against the loggers.

Numpang Suntai, the lead plaintiff in the civil suit, was later charged with criminal intimidation of Loyal Billion, following the villagers’ blockade of the logging road.

The High Court had granted an interim injunction against the companies on Jan 27, restraining them from logging or working on the contested land.

“Publicity campaign” charge

Tang and Partners Advocates, the legal firm representing the first, second and third defendants – Quality Concrete, Loyal Billion and Penghulu Merum Babu respectively – first presented the contentious ‘Deed of Settlement’ as a court document on Feb 16, arguing the natives had willingly signed away their NCR land.

Loyal Billion director Lau Pong Hui and Pengulu Merum Babu in new affidavits on Feb 21 affirmed that, as advised by their lawyers, they “verily believe that the Deed of Settlement and Undertaking dated 30 August 2010… which was prepared by Mr Arthur Lee Cheng Chuan, an advocate of Messrs Arthur Lee Lin & Co Advocates, is good, proper, lawful and valid in law.”

They also “aver that Mr Arthur Lee Cheng Chuan was a witness to the signatures of the directors of the second Defendant and to the signature of Penghulu of Sungai Sebangan, i.e. Penghulu Merum Babu.”

In the same affidavits by Lau and Penghulu Merum, they argued that “the lodging of police reports by this handful…of 24 persons at this eleventh hour which received a great deal of and widespread media coverage is a publicity campaign to capitalise (on) the NCR issues before the upcoming state election.” Lau’s affidavit included news clipping of three local Chinese Newspapers.

Lau’s and Penghulu Merum’s insinuation of the police reports being a “publicity campaign” appears to have been directed at counsel for the plaintiffs, See Chee How of Messrs Baru Bian Advocates and Solicitors.

Both Baru Bian (right) and See are state PKR leaders, and have been practising as renowned NCR land rights lawyers for over a decade, regardless of any elections.

The villagers said that the first they had heard of the so-called Deed was when the defendants’ lawyer tendered the documents in court on Feb 16, the date when Numpang and the plaintiffs’ counsel were attending to the start of the ‘criminal intimidation’ trial at Simunjan, some two hours’ drive away from Kuching.

The villagers then lodged their police reports on Feb 19, as soon as they had discovered that they were supposed to have signed a deed that sold off their NCR land for only RM250 per family.

“The company’s affidavit claims the lawsuit was politically motivated,” said Numpang, lead plaintiff in the High Court suit.

“Let’s look at this logic. Let’s say you are a victim of cheating, misrepresentation and fraud, and you are supposed to have given up land rights inherited through generations for a measly RM250 per family.

“Does this mean you must not fight for your rights when there is an election around the corner? There is nothing for us to apologise in defending our rights.” concluded Numpang.

The Kuching High Court had set today, Feb 25 for filing of all affidavits, with final submissions by all parties on March 2 for the court’s final decision on March 4 whether the interim injunction will be extended until the conclusion of the NCR land case.

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