“Forced To Become Coolies In Their Own Lands” MAJOR EXCLUSIVE
21 Apr 2013
Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission’s report on Indigenous Rights has finally been made public, thanks to a leak to Sarawak Report
Sarawak Report has received a leaked copy of a devastating official report on the treatment of the natives of Sabah and Sarawak, which BN has been trying to keep secret until after the election.
In the report Malaysia’s human rights commission Suhakam has lambasted Taib’s State Government on count after count over its conduct over native land rights.
It concludes that the indigenous people of the region have been “forced to become Coolies in their own lands” by the actions of the Land Custody and Development Authority, which Taib personally chairs.
For weeks there has been concern and questions asked because of the delays over the publication of this report by the BN government.
Just last week former Suhakam members wrote an open letter to Najib Razak expressing their concern that the report has not been made public, with the deadline of April 25th just hours away when the current commission will be disbanded:
“it is imperative that Suhakam releases the report for public review and study….In not releasing the report before the end of the tenure of the current Commission, Suhakam might be in danger of non-disclosure of the facts gathered and the conclusions drawn”[Proham press release]
The leaked copy now in our possession shows why ministers were so anxious to hide the information until after the election, since it proves in shocking detail how over the last 5 decades BN has violated the human rights of Malaysia’s native peoples, in favour of get rich quick schemes by large corporations, in which local politicians frequently have a personal financial interest.
Devastating indictment of the Suhakam report
Devastating criticisms of Taib’s violation of Sarawak natives’ human rights
Suhakam is the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.
Now available online via Sarawak Report’s special portal
Under its terms of reference laid down by law the Commission explains that it may “inquire into an allegations of an infringement of human rights” either from its own motion or in response to complaints by others.
The Commission explainsthat it has “received numerous complaints between 2002 and 2010 related to customary rights to land, many of which have not been resolved. These complaints from indigenous peoples relate to allegations of encroachment and/or dispossession of land; land included into forest or park reserves; overlapping claims and slow processing of requests for the issuing of native titles or community reserves”.
And because of these complaints it set up a National Enquiry Into the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Malaysia, which received an “overwhelming response” to its request for submissions:
“The consultations received overwhelming response from the public with more than 6,500 indigenous peoples participating in the sessions. A total of 892 statements were recorded – 407 statements from Sabah, 198 statements from Sarawak and 287 statements from the Peninsula”.
We have now placed the findings and final report of this commission onlineafter we received a leaked copy.
Representation of East Malaysia’s Chief Ministers submitted to Sarawak Report by a reader
Sarawak Report were passed the leak because of the Federal Government plain reluctance to reveal the devastating findings about its failure to protect people from human rights violations, in particular the stealing of their land with the help of state authorities such as in Sarawak.
Much of what is written in the report backs up numerous instances recorded in this website where native lands have been forcibly removed from the indigenous land owners by the Sarawak State Government and handed to so-called Joint Ventures or merely given over to timber and plantation companies in the name of development.
Suhakam also makes plain in their report that the UMNO led state government of Sabah under Musa Aman has also carried out numerous similar violations and that these abuses have also been rampant on the Peninsular.
Time and again Sarawak Report has detailed projects that were proclaimed as being for the benefit of these people have in fact only benefitted the family members, businessmen and political cronies of Taib Mahmud, who controls all the licences through his positions as Land and Resources Minister, Chief Minister and Chairman of the Land Custody and Development Authority.
And in this hugely important leaked report Malaysia’s own official human rights commissioners have backed up our evidence and listed the multiple ways in which Taib has violated the human rights of his people.
Main findings – State of Sarawak is ignoring the courts
Key findings listed by the report in its section on Sarawak, laid out in Chapter 7, include the fact that the Sarawak State Government have continued to ignore Malaysian court rulings which have upheld the rights of native land owners in the state against Taib’s legislation and the so-called Sarawak Land Code.
Ignoring the courts – Sarawak has been taking scant notice of native land rights rulings by the federal courts
The report also makes several references to the notorious failure by the Sarawak administration to make available information that should be public and easily accessible. It makes clear that this is deliberate policy by Taib’s government and has the direct effect of disadvantaging landowners, who are kept unaware of plans to take their land.
Secrecy that violates the rights of Sarawak’s native is the deliberate policy of Taib’s administration
The report then turns to the unacceptable delays by Taib’s government in dealing with cases and complaints. At best it says “the handling of native land applications by the authorities has been inconsistent and dissolute”. Likewise there had been consistent failure to meet survey requests.
Requested in 1988 and still waiting. How Land & Survey Department treats the natives.
No due notice given
The report also highlights what every Sarawakian knows, which is that inadequate notice is given to natives by the state administration of any plans to hand over their lands to timber and plantation companies. The report points out that this behaviour is against the law.
Cheating the natives by keeping them deliberately uninformed.
No legal assistance
Another practice highlighted in the report and deplored is the failure of the state government to assist communities faced with logging and plantation companies. Instead, communities were left to negotiate with heavy handed corporations without any information being given to them about their rights and without any access to legal support.
No advice is given to the natives about the limitations on the rights of the licence holders and they are given no legal support.
LCDA is made the ‘trustee’ for the NCR natives!
Perhaps the most scandalous and shocking discovery made by the report has been Taib’s arrogant decision that his own Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA) could somehow take over the right to act in trust for the natives’ interests when deciding to take their land and hand it to companies in so-called state sponsored ‘joint ventures;.
Bearing in mind that these joint ventures have without exception been carried out by Taib’s own family members or political and business cronies it is a clear conflict of interest that Taib’s LCDA department, which he chairs, should be entrusted with protecting the interests of the natives!
Clear conflict of interest – Taib’s department has set itself up as the ‘Trustee’ for the native communities in joint ventures it has initiated and keeps hold of their land titles. If an NCR land owner refuses Taib has passed an act to allow his department compulsory acquisition!
It is significant that government spokesman has the cheek to justify such actions by the sweeping comment “when we develop their land it is for their benefit”. This Suhakam report confirms what everyone in Sarawak knows, which is that in fact it is only for Taib’s benefit and the ordinary people are left poorer than ever.
Police bias is against the people
Equally disgraceful and shocking is the well known failure by the police to assist native communities when their rights are breached by Taib’s client licence holders or when they are even intimidated or attacked by gangsters working for timber and plantation companies.
The report points out that to the contrary the police consistently only act when there are complaints instead by the licence holders and are then happy to throw the local people in jail for rightfully protesting about the violations of their lands.
People who are rightfully protesting at the violation of their rights can be thrown in jail and yet the police have given them no protection against intrusions on their lands and livelihoods
Pollution and destruction as Environment is ignored
Again the report notes that Taib’s administration has repeatedly allowed Environmental Impact Assessments to be overlooked or inadequately carried out and that the native people have suffered from the dreadful pollution of their lands and waters.
Turning a blind eye to pollution
The report also makes clear that there is very often no attempt at consultation with affected peoples when licences are handed out on their lands. However, when there is consultation it is usually just for show, involving only the Headman, whom Taib has now made an appointed official paid by him.
These headmen know that to keep their salaries they must do what is required, which means they are not representing the natives, they are representing Taib’s own interests. Again this is a violation of the human rights and indigenous rights of the people’s whose land he has been grabbing.
No voice for the natives and no transparency either.
No dividends for the natives
The report also discusses a problem well known with Taib’s joint venture projects, often criticised on this site. While the greedy Chief Minister likes to pontificate that his projects are about helping and developing ‘joint ventures’ to enrich the people, the natives rarely get paid any dividends!
The only people to get rich, time and again, are Taib’s family and cronies who own the private companies involved. It shows that the ‘Trustee’ for the natives i.e. Taib’s own LCDA department is a very poor fighter for the people whose land it has confiscated.
Joint ventures overseen by the State of Sarawak are a sham
Neither of course does Taib stick up for the natives to even gain some compensation for the loss of their territories, as the report makes plain.
Oops – we forgot the compensation. Feel free to sue us.
And of course if natives do decide to try and take these companies and their backer, Taib’s state government, to court, then by the time a decision is reached their lands will already be destroyed and Taib has consistently refused to put a halt to his “development” projects while disputes are settled.
This means that although Taib’s administration has time and again lost these court battles the land the natives were seeking to protect has long been destroyed. Taib should have been sorted out by the BN federal government long ago for such blatant and illegal violations of the rights of his native peoples and it is no surprise that BN and Najib Razak have been desperately trying to hide this report until after the election.
Steamrollering of the people’s rights
Bullying and intimidation
The Suhakam report also gives credence to a problem well known in Sarawak, which is the unhelpful attitude of the authorities towards natives with problems over the grabbing of their land and the downright threats and bullying that is employed to force communities to do Taib’s bidding.
Both the police and special branch and even thugs are employed to force the indigenous people to surrender their rights to Taib’s businesses interests.
No difference from Mugabe. The bullying tactics that Taib’s state employs to take lands from the people
The Suhakam report makes a number of recommendations which can be summed up by its call for a full restitution of lands taken illegally and for compensation where losses cannot be repaired. The report declares:
“Deprivation of indigenous peoples’ right to land in order to carry out poverty eradication schemes, economic development and conservation efforts, or by fraudulent means through the use of powers of attorney and other forms of illegal land transfers, has occurred without adequate mechanisms for complaints and redress”
To repair the damage Suhakam echoes the PR opposition’s call for a Royal Commission. It has a similar suggestion, which is for the establishment of an Indigenous Land Tribunal.
“The Inquiry strongly recommends the establishment of an Indigenous Land Tribunal or Commission composed of retired judges and experts on indigenous customary rights to resolve issues and complaints related to indigenous peoples’ land claims that are brought before it. The Tribunal or Commission should be empowered to decide on these complaints and issues, including appropriate settlements or redress related to a case.”
The Commission also insists that indigenous people should have access to legal aid to represent their interests at these hearings, so that their rights can be finally recognised and addressed in accordance with the international laws on human and indigenous rights.
Malaysia’s Mugabe – Taib Mahmud, who has land grabbed and entire state from his people stands exposed by his own federal government
With such a recommendation to repair his actions against his own people Taib Mahmud should be hanging his head in shame.
He may have laughed off the criticism of numerous NGOs and observers over the years.
But,what is he to do now that Malaysia’s own official human rights commission has painted him as Malaysia’s own Mugabe in such a way?
Will he call them “naughty” like the MACC?
BN has attempted to protect him and his fellow land grabbing Chief Minister Musa Aman of Sabah (more on his antics soon) by hiding this report. However, the tactic has now failed.
Malaysia is getting fed up with Taib Mahmud and the shame he brings on them and the misery he has inflicted on his people of Sarawak.
The Suhakam report points out that Taib’s methods of seizing lands has caused much of the conflict seen in the form of blockades such as this one at Murum