Who are those behind the issuance of a timber extraction licence for Mount Sadong located along the Baki-Riih Road in Serian about 40km from Kuching?

Is it the Forest Department or Sarawak Timber Development Corporation? Or is any minister involved? These are the questions 26 angry Bidayuh chiefs are asking.

Irrespective of the identities of those involved, the chiefs led by Temenggong Robert Sulis Ridu are demanding that the licence be revoked at once, failing which they and their 'anembiak' (followers) will be forced to organsise a big protest against the exploitation of Mount Sadong,

They met last Friday to discuss the issue after they have been informed of the on-going timber operations there.

In a statement after the meeting, the village chiefs expressed concern and anger at the issuance of a timber concession for Mount Sadong to a company .

"All the village chiefs expressed their unhappiness over the lack of respect to their ancestral land which they have preserved all this while.

"The Bidayuh Bukar Community would like to appeal to the relevant authorities to withdraw the timber licence with immediate effect," Sulis said in the statement.

"The Bidayuh of community of Bukar descendants is furious and deeply saddened by the apparent disregard and disrespect for their ancestral homeland which they have held sacred since time immemorial," he said.

Rivers a lifeline for villagers

He added that the 26 villages depended greatly on the rivers that flow from the mountain for their daily water supply as that provided by the JKR Serian is unreliable and in most cases not sufficient.

Said Sulis: "The low flow rate of the water supply by JKR Serian necessitates the villages to rely heavily on gravity feed water to meet their daily needs.

"Hence, any logging activity in the area will compound the problems further and cause grave difficulties to the village folk.

"The mountain has also been the community's source of food, medicines and building materials.

"The flora and fauna such as the peacocks, hornbills and barking deers and numerous other protected animals and bird species can still be found there," said the paramount chief of Bidayuh Bukar.

Sulis pointed out that the mountain is a rich source of biodiversity and once lost difficult to replace.

Communal orchards shared by all the villages in the area such as durian orchards, rubber plots and land for subsistence farming are among the sources of income, he said, pointing out that the mountain was a symbol of Bidayuh Bukar cultural heritage and pride.

Pollution poses real threat

He said: "The environmental impact of large scale development at and around Mount Sadong will cause pollution of all kinds.

"Proposals have been made to the relevant authorities to gazette the area as a heritage site and turn it into an eco-park for a controlled tourism development.

"Hence, realising the urgency of the situation at hand, the Bidayuh Bukar community will hold a big gathering for all the community leaders and the village folk from the affected villages at Kampung Lanchang Sabai this Sunday.

"The purpose of the gathering is to show the Bidayuh Bukar solidarity and to brief the community on the issue at hand as well as to further discuss what action is to be taken," said Sulis.