Monday, February 9, 2015

Iban landowners to sue police chief for disrespecting their customs

BY DESMOND DAVIDSON


Legal counsel Abun Sui Anyit, representing Iban landowners disputing an oil palm plantation’s access to their native land, says the police had destroyed their offerings while tearing down a barricade. – Facebook pic, February 8, 2015.
Legal counsel Abun Sui Anyit, representing Iban landowners disputing an oil palm plantation’s access to their native land, says the police had destroyed their offerings while tearing down a barricade. – Facebook pic, February 8, 2015.

Native landowners in Sibuti, Sarawak, will take the Miri police chief to the state's native court for allegedly disrespecting their Iban “adat” (custom) when dismantling a barricade over a road to a disputed land last December.
Assistant Commissioner (ACP) Gan Tian Kee was alleged to have destroyed the “piring” or offerings placed by the landowners to their deities at the barricade on Christmas eve last year.
Sibuti is about 60km from Miri.
“I have received instructions from the landowners to file the matter in the native court first,” their legal counsel Abun Sui Anyit said yesterday.
“If the native court finds him guilty, we could proceed to file a case against him in the civil court,” Abun said.
Gan, who led a force of 80 police personnel reportedly consisting of light strike force (LSF), general operations force (GOF) and ordinary police personnel, was alleged to have trespassed into their “temuda” (farmed land) at Sungai Bekelit to dismantle the barricade.
“There is nothing wrong in mounting a barricade on private land,” Abun said.
The road passes through the landowners’ NCR land and is the only road an oil palm plantation company could take to reach its plantation.
The landowners who mounted the barricade are from five longhouses on Sungai Bekelit, Sungai Serunggut and Sungai Kelitang.
“They are furious with the conduct of Gan who showed total disregard for Iban custom. They want the native court to punish Gan for his disrespect,” said Abun, who is also a PKR grassroots leader.
Nicholas Bawin, a former president of the state's Majlis Adat Istiadat, the council that oversees native customary practices and ceremonies, said disrespect for Iban customs was a serious offence and that it was wrong to destroy the piring.
Bawin, now a native land rights activist, accused Gan of “taking the law into his own hands, desecrated, destroyed and smashed” the piring.
The barricade was erected to stop the oil palm company accessing the land on which the company had been given a provisional lease (PL) by the state government.
It effectively blockaded the plantation.
The native landowners are disputing the government action as they claim the land is still their NCR land.
They took their dispute to the Miri High Court last year.
Although the High Court did not recognise all the land claimed by the five longhouses as NCR land, neither did it recognise all the land with the provisional lease as belonging to the company.
With the status quo in place, both landowners and the company have filed appeals against the decision.
The case is still pending.
“ACP Gan was too quick to act to defend the company,” Bawin said.
Bawin said Gan apparently did not know the history of the Iban’s migration to the area in the 1920 and 1930s.
“He did not know there are several important landmarks within the provisional leased land given to the company that he defended.”
The landmarks Bawin referred to were the burial grounds, the “tembawai” (sites of old longhouses), fruit groves, garden and the “temuda” (farmed land) of the five longhouses.
“There is no doubt that their forefathers had established (these lands) as NCR lands according to the customs and traditions (of the Iban),” he said.
Bawin said the government, in giving the lease to the company, was “taking away a substantial area of their NCR land”.
“The people's rights had been abused and violated and it looks like the company's right is dominant.”
He added that the incident would have a far-reaching effect on the traditional customs and traditions of the Iban.
“These people are extremely angry.”
Even though the majority of Iban, the largest Dayak group, had embraced Christianity, many still practised their “pengarap lama” (traditional pagan beliefs).
Gan on Thursday denied using excessive force or disrespected the Iban by destroying their piring.
He told national news agency Bernama the accusations were untrue as police “had met them and given them two days to sort out the matter, apart from advising them not to take the law into their own hands”. – February 8, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/iban-landowners-to-sue-police-chief-for-disrespecting-their-customs#sthash.xhGVorFJ.dpuf

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