KUCHING: When poor natives in Sarawak are pushed to the wall, they will resort to the counter action they know best – take up the matter in a court of law or take the law into their own hands.
Now, don’t blame them if they resort to mounting blockades and use steelly determination to defend their land, homes and rights. Faced with such hopeless situations at times, what choice do these poor rural folks have?
This week, Native Customary Right (NCR) landowners in Lubok Antu in the Sri Aman Division of Sarawak have started to issue such stern warnings to those harbouring intentions to encroach on their land.
The latest encroachment that has been unfolding between the Lemanak and Engkarie areas has raised the ire of several headmen. They have since sought the assistance of social activist Nicholas Bawin, who is also a state PKR leader.
Bawin, an expert witness for hundreds of NCR court cases including numerous landmark cases, said: “We have to stand up for our rights; bear in mind that NCR lands have been established earlier than the Brooke era. Based on NCR laws, we have every right to defend what is rightfully ours.”
The NCR landowners are from eight longhouses comprising over 200 doors with 200 families.
The news of the impending encroachment came in late November during a meeting that was arranged in Rumah Intang of Kampung Mengiling in Engkarie attended by several headmen and other longhouse representatives.
Bawin recounted that at the meeting, another group of people also from the area introduced a company called Maju Niaga Hijau Sdn Bhd. Interestingly, the purpose of the meeting was to inform the landowners that the company was going to build a road in the surrounding area.
According to Bawin, the whole meeting was very suspect and raised more questions than answers.
“The group also mentioned that they were going to bring in ‘cables’ meaning electricity to the area and the longhouses involved. Then, there was also a proposal to plant oil palm in the area,” said Bawin.
“The next point brought out for discussion was that the company wanted to extract timber which is a very sensitive matter as two years ago another company with a valid licence had made its move in the area. We were not happy and took the matter to the High Court.
“The NCR landowners will protect their lands at all costs and ensure that no logging company will conduct activities here,” he added.
Bawin observed that for now there were no signs of any work being carried out and the villagers of Engkarie were adamant about standing their ground. Villagers had sighted four machines still in the area and it was not ascertained which company they belonged to.
According to sources on the ground, the adjacent areas to Engkarie divided by a ridge had already been encroached on and timber extraction was in progress. Longhouses are usually built close to the river and Engkarie and Lamanak are the two tributaries of Batang Ai.
Bawin summed it up: “I have appeared more than a hundred times in court for NCR cases and we have won many cases. We have filed close to 400 cases already. I will stand with the NCR landowners.”
~ The Ant Daily