Polar Horizon Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Titanium Management Sdn Bhd, whose majority shareholder is multi-billionaire Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud's flamboyant son, Abu Bekir (left, in picture below), was issued with the provisional leases (PLs) for the land.
The area covers three parcels, known as Lot 176 and Lot 177 of Block 5 and Lot 478 of Block 6 in the Sampadi district and the PLs were issued by the Superintendent of Lands and Surveys of Kuching Division.
The company obtained the PLs for the three lots, covering 1,500 hectares, on Feb 3, 2010.
Armed with the PLs, Polar Horizon shortly afterwards issued notices to the villagers of Kampung Kangka, Kampung Sampadi, Kampung Sungai China, Kampung Stoh, Kampung Ulu Riam/Setia Jaya and Kampung Sungai Belian to move out within 30 days.
When they refused, the company filed court action against the NCR landowners.
Polar Horizon also named Rona Hijau Sdn Bhd, a joint venture plantation company between the villagers and a group of Sibu businessmen, in its suit.
Penghulu Kipli Lihi, Ambi Uri, Layang Engot, Sintu Layang, Je'ae Kamuri, Jamain Mahmud, Borhan Saidi, Kapli Liman and Awang Bohari Awang Ali, representing themselves and the other 481 villagers of the area, filed their defence and counter-claim through Baru Bian Advocates & Solicitors in the Kuching High Court registry this morning.
In their statement of defence, they said the issuance of the PLs was unconstitutional, illegal and null and void as the PLs covered, comprised and encroached into their NCR land.
Land vital to villagers' sustenance
They said their villages were established native settlements, with Kampung Sampadi established in 1902 by a group of Malay Kedayan, while the other villages were established between 1920 and 1940 with the approval of the Rajah Brooke government.
At all material times, they said, they had acquired and claimed native customary rights over the land in and around the six villages.
They also said the Lands and Surveys Department had undertaken numerous survey jobs to determine the parcels of their NCR land, and that they would produce plans and the survey reports done on the land at the full trial.
The villagers also said they derived food, valuable medicines, wildlife and other forest produce for their sustenance and livelihood from the NCR land, which comprises farmland and forest.
The land was not just a source of their livelihood but was also fundamental to their social, cultural and spiritual survival as native peoples of Sarawak.
Through their own initiatives, they had formed a joint-venture plantation company with a group of Sibu businessmen in 2007 to grow palm oil on parts of their NCR land.
In their counter-claim against Polar Horizon, they want the court to declare that they hold customary rights over the three parcels of land.
They also want the court to declare the PLs issued to Polar Horizon as unlawful, improper, unconstitutional and therefore, null and void, and to issue an injunction to restrain the company, its agents or employees from trespassing, clearing, taking possession of or occupying their land.
Taken from Malaysiakini.