A villager's 9-year-old son was among those arrested for allegedly stealing oil palm from a company which encroached into their NCR land.
MIRI: Eight villagers from Suai were arrested and assaulted by the police on Friday for allegedly stealing oil palm from a company which is encroaching into the villagers’ native customary rights (NCR) lands.
The company is accusing the villagers of being involved in a syndicate that is stealing oil palm fruits and intimidating the company estate workers.
“The police used excessive force to arrest the villagers by pointing their weapons at the unarmed villagers which comprised of men, women and children,” says Cassidy Robinson, Rumah Gansor spokesperson.
“To add insult to injury, one of the villagers, Adrian Micheal, was assaulted before being arrested together with one of his sons who is still nine years of age.
“Besides being arrested, 11 of the villagers’ vehicles were also seized by the police and brought to the Miri Central Police Station (CPS),” she stressed.
Cassidy added that longhouse welfare funds amounting to RM10,500 which was supposed to be deposited at a local bank in Batu Niah has gone missing from one of the seized vehicles which was subsequently taken by the police to Miri.
The villagers from the three longhouses are crying foul at the way the police and other authorities are handling this dispute which has been left unresolved since 1996.
“The land where the company is operating is within our NCR land,” said villager Abang Ramba.
“We have been writing letters and held meetings with the relevant authorities since the encroachment and occupation of our NCR lands by the plantation company. We have also brought the matter to the civil court but the dispute remains unresolved.”
“The police treated us as if we are dangerous criminals. They came in an aggressive manner and uttered harsh and insulting words and pointed their weapons towards us. We are only farmers working on our own lands and we have tried numerous times to meet and have dialogues with the company but it never kept to its promises,” said Abang.
Currently, the eight villagers are still being held under remand at the Miri CPS.
Those arrested are Chaya Ak Abang, Sudin Ak Minggat, Elvister Ak Entir, Fabian Ak Jati, Robin Ak Siri, Adrian Ak Micheal and two underaged boys.
The people of the three villages urged the police to release their fellow villagers unconditionally and for the police to do a proper and fair investigation to determine the rootcause of the dispute and not to just listen to the company’s side of the story.
They urged the media not to paint a negative picture of the villagers as being a crime syndicate, without first verifying facts of the dispute.
A police contingent from Batu Niah, Miri and Kuching consisting of the General Operations Force (GOF), traffic and ordinary officers went down to the Sungai Sebatu, Suai last Friday, Nov 1.
Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (Tahabas) president, Romould Siew meanwhile called for the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) to intervene and assist in settling this dispute in an amicable manner.