Some 16,800 people of Singai Bidayuh origin are worried that the bedrock of their heritage and civilisation as well as their livelihood embedded in some 3,000 acres of forest around Mount Blassan are now under a serious threat of being wiped out by a crony company.
Twelve village chiefs representing the people have lodged a police report and have written to Chief Minister Adenan Satem to stop the company from clearing their forest for an oil palm plantation.
So far officers from the Forest Department and Land and Survey Department have visited the area following their complaint.
Other than that, no further news has been forthcoming, said Penghulu Jidokson Raway.
In the meantime, the village chiefs have discussed further action including seeking a legal suit to defend the forest, Jidokson said.
The forest is part of 11,000 acres of the land that is within a provisional lease given to Teras Sdn Bhd, which is said to be linked to a amily member of a former PBB leader.
Site also a key water catchment area
The affected area, encompassing Sungai Selalang and Sungai Mutud to Sungai Kayan Putih and Sungai Kayan Merah, is claimed by the Singai Bidayuh community as their ancestral land containing cultural and heritage sites, including fruit orchards and graveyards.
It is also an important water catchment area and green lung.
This is the third mountain in the Bidayuh area is the target of crony companies, for the planting of oil palm, quarry operations or for logging activities.
The first was Mount Sadong in the Serian District where a timber company was given a licence to extract timber. However, this licence had been withdrawn after an outcry from the Sadong-Bukar Bidayuh people.
The second was Mount Serumbu, Bau, where a quarry licence was given to a company owned by a leader of PBB. The works on the mountain have been temporarily suspended.
Speaking on behalf of the village chiefs, Jidokson said: “The forest around Mount Blassan is not only preserved by the Bidayuh, just like the Iban’s ‘pemakai menua’.
Place where Bidayuh forage for food as well
This is where we forage for food, timber and rotan for domestic use as well as a source of clean water for the residents of the 12 villages. This site is our heritage, our civilisation and a sacred place for all of us.
“The place is our life and has full of history. One of the most important events here was a battle during which our ancestors shed blood in defending the forest and the mountain.
“This episode, which was well before the arrival of James Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak, and is still remembered by us.
“Since then, the forest has become part of our life, our civilisation and part of our native customary rights land. Therefore, we are not only shocked, but angry by the apparent disregard for our ancestral homeland.
“They are taking away the timber first before they plant oil palm,” Jidokson said, pointing out that the crony company Teras has started the felling and clearing of timber in February this year.
He said the logging activities and plantation establishment have cause much of Sungai Selalang, Mutud and Tawak to be polluted and thewater catchment areas rendered useless due to heavy siltation and pollution.
The Singai community has preserved and conserved the resources in the area in a pristine state for future generations. Gunung Kayan, which is situated within the same vicinity, is a communal forest reserve and now forms part of the Sampadi National Park.
“In fact, this is the only land left in reserve by the Singai community. Any logging activity and large-scale commercial development in it would have adverse effects on the entire landscape of the area.
“Some 16,844 Singai villagers will have their livelihood ruined,” Jidokson added, urging the authorities to stop the company from destroying their NCR land.