Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Natives accuse newspaper of telling lies

Joseph Tawie

Increasing cases of armed gangster attacks on natives over land disputes is worrying Sarawak PKR.

KUCHING: Angry residents of Rumah Ranggong in Ulu Niah, who were harassed by armed thugs last week over their native customary rights (NCR) land, have accused a local newspaper of “spinning lies” and portraying them as the “aggressors” in the incident.

The newspaper report headlined “Police finally move to diffuse standoff” allegedly stated that it was the natives who had threatened oil palm company BLD Resources with the use of force.

The report also claimed that the longhouse residents were taking over the BLD estate, illegally harvesting oil palm fruits along the roadside and had seized three tractors in order to harvest more fruits.

The report also claimed that the villagers had allegedly threatened the workers of the company with bodily harm if the company continued to lodge police reports.

Longhouse Security and Development Committee (JKKK) chairman Changgai Anak Dali in a statement condemned the report, calling it a “blatant lie”.

“We want to put the story right. We never seized any tractor… we did not threaten the company.

“It is the company that brought along gangsters who were fully armed with machetes and explosives to intimidate and threaten our people,” Changgai said.

Both BLD Resources and the newspaper are allegedly owned by one Henry Lau.

Land dispute

Changgai said the newspaper report also lied when it said that the longhouse residents, through their trustees, had signed an indemnity with the company for 30% equity in July 2009 when the joint-venture (JV) agreement between BLD, Sarawak Land Development Board (SLDB) and the native landowners of Rumah Ranggong and Rumah Belilie was signed in February 2001.

Explaining the history behind the dispute, Changgai said: “In October 2008, a deed of rescission was signed between SLDB and BLD without our knowledge to rescind the JV agreement because the state government made a mistake in declaring our NCR land as state land.

“Because of this, I was sued by BLD for trespassing on my own land and this triggered our land dispute. We filed a counter suit which is now being heard at the Kuching High Court.

“Last year, we wrote a letter to BLD to demand our land back and also to settle our long overdue dividends from the project, but we received no response. This is when we decided to erect our blockade in January this year.”

He said that the neighbouring residents of Rumah Belilie also erected a blockade to protect against BLD.

Last Friday, about 100 armed gangsters reportedly went to the outskirts of Rumah Ranggong’s NCR boundary and made camps there in an attempt to intimidate the villagers.

A gang leader was arrested and the rest were asked to leave the place by the police.

Increasing cases

Meanwhile, Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian has expressed concern over the use of gangsters by certain companies to harass and intimidate natives.

“There were two very disturbing incidents last week – one in Meluan where a father and son were battered by gangsters in the area and the second one about Rumah Ranggong and Rumah Belilie last Saturday.

“In the second incident, it is disturbing to note that dangerous explosives were used. These were left on the ground by the gangsters. Police arrested the leader.

“But in the Meluan incident, so far no gangsters have been arrested and ironically the father and son who were battered were arrested,” said Bian, a prominent NCR lawyer.

Bian urged the police to take the cases seriously.

“We plead with the police to take these cases seriously and to carry out their investigations promptly.

“I urge the police to be neutral in carrying out their duties as they are the guardians of the people,” he said.

He added that there had been cases where police had been against the natives.

“Two months ago, we won a case in Kapit against wrongful arrest. There are a few more cases including one pending in Miri against unlawful arrest,” he said.

Taken from Free Malaysia Today.

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