Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Act before situation explodes

by Geryl Ogilvy Ruekeith, Posted on November 6, 2013, Wednesday

Masing calls for swift action on illegal logging, bullying by thugs

KUCHING: The police must take swift action on illegal logging activities and harassment by thugs on residents of eight villages around Melikin and Karangan Melikin to stop the situation from escalating.

Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing feared that the situation could get out of hand if the illegal loggers were allowed to encroach the water catchment area for some 800 people of the affected villages with impunity.

The senior minister added that the villagers had every right for protection of their properties and that gangsterism should not have reared its ugly head in the matter.

“I’ve been briefed by Sri Aman MP Masir Kujat and Snowdan Lawan, Balai Ringin assemblyman, on the problems in Melikin. Both have given their assurances that they will find out the facts on the matter.

“NCR (native customary rights) landowners have every right to protect their properties and gangsterism shouldn’t be employed by interested parties,” Masing told The Borneo Post in a text messages yesterday.

Masing was commenting on the The Borneo Post front page report yesterday on 800 residents of eight villages around Melikin and Karangan Melikin, some 100 km from here, living in fear of constant harassment by thugs who encroached into their water catchment area to log the area illegally.

A spokesperson for the affected villagers on Monday said gangsters were apparently engaged by the company involved in the illegal logging to intimidate villagers and guard its operation. The logging has polluted their water supply, turning the water murky and rendering it unsafe for drinking and bathing.

Snowdan, when contacted, also urged the relevant authorities to look into the claim of the villagers seriously. Being the elected people’s representative of the area, he expressed his concern over the safety of the locals and hoped that the authorities would take immediate action to solve the problem.

The assemblyman said that he would get in touch with the relevant authorities such as the plantation companies involved, Land and Survey Department, Forestry Department, police, Resident Office, District Officer Office, affected land owners and the community leaders.

“We need to discuss this matter with all the parties involved. In the meantime, let the police do their job first,” he continued.

The illegal logging and disputes came to a head on Oct 15, when a group of thugs attacked plantation workers after seizing an excavator belonging to a plantation company operating in the area. Several villagers were also assaulted during the incident.

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