A group of Penan Muslims staged a demonstration last Wednesday near Sebekai Plantation Sdn Bhd with the collapse of negotiations over native customary rights (NCR) land between the two.

The demonstration in Bintulu lasted from noon to around 3pm, with 30 locals turning up to pressure the developers into meeting their demands and the state government to intervene on their behalf.

The peaceful gathering was planned after the latest dialogue session between the native residents and the plantation developers on May 25 bore no results.

The demonstration followed a blockade set up by the group earlier last month, following six years of struggle to reclaim the land.

NONEIn a telephone interview with Malaysiakini, group representative Ismawi Ishak said the developers were only willing to offer "goodwill payments", rejected by the residents as it meant that the company would not take responsibility and return the land to them.

Meanwhile, they are still awaiting a response from the Land and Survey Department over their claim to the land, with a decision due in two months.

Even then, said Ismawi, the result would not account for the compensation they are seeking from the developers for the loss in income they have suffered over the years, and so their hope is on Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud to help resolve the matter.

To that end, they will be submitting their request to Taib, after today's Gawai Dayak festival with copies to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim. 

The group is demanding the unconditional return of their land, as well as full compensation for any losses incurred over the six years since the land was taken over.

"We will wait for a decision from the developers, and if no progress is made, we will take them to court," said Ismawi.

However, they are still working on finding voluntary legal representation, as they cannot afford legal fees.

"Where have we got the money?" he lamented.