Sunday, November 3, 2013

Stop criminalising NCR protesters or face action

Sarawak police were warned today not to criminalise the legitimate protests of natives protecting their native customary rights (NCR) land from being encroached and submerged by the Murum dam in Belaga.

NONE“If the police do that, then the police may have to face legal actions from the natives,” said Sarawak PKR vice-chairperson See Chee How.

See’s warning came in the wake Sarawak police commissioner (CP) Muhamad Sabtu Osman threatening Penan protesters at Murum dam, Belaga with arrests.

Last Friday Muhamad Sabtu asked the natives who participated in the blockades to cease their activities as they could be arrested any time for breaking the law.

“The locals responsible for erecting the blockades have chosen the wrong course of action, and face being hauled to court and possibly jailed for obstructing public servants from discharging their duties,” Muhamad Sabtu said.

He also advised non-government organisations and other parties to end their "illegal activity" and to discuss their grievances with the state government instead.

Baram construction blockadeReacting on the threat, See, who is also a human rights lawyer said, “Do not criminalise the legitimate protests of our natives protecting their NCR land.

“With due respect, the police commissioner and the police should know the laws on NCR especially the higher courts have defined what is NCR land.

“As they are against the dam that is of no necessity, we are fully behind the local communities in courts and politically in all avenues.

“But I trust the learned CP will understand the legitimate struggle of the people in protecting their land,” said See, who is Batu Lintang assemblyperson.

'Police must learn about NCR land'

Meanwhile, he said he will write a letter to the CP to seek a dialogue with him and his staff.

“We want to tell them the views of the higher courts in respect to NCR land and its definition.  It is important for the police to understand the views of the courts,” he said.

NONEMuhamad Sabtu's threat is the second issued to the Penan communities.

Last month police personnel including members of the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) were sent to the Murum dam toarrest some 40 Penan involved in the blockade.

So far none of the 40 has been charged. 

Despite the threat, some 300 Penan and their children are still maintaining blockades to the Murum dam until their demands are met.

They are adamant that they will not move out from their ancestral lands even though they are faced with the twin threats - police arrests and the fast rising water level of the hydro-electric dam, which was impounded in September.

NONESeveral negotiations have been carried out by the state government and Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), the owner of Murum dam, with the Penan communities, but every time no agreement has been reached on the conditions and terms of the relocation. 

The last negotiation was held last month during which SEB promised to offer them RM213.3 million in compensation for their longhouses, and infrastructure facilities.

But the Peliran-Murum Penan Affairs Committee (Pemupa) not only rejected the offer, but accused SEB of trying to mislead and confuse them.

The committee also described the offer as ‘rubbish’.

~ Malaysiakini

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