28 NOVEMBER 2015
The violent attack on Tuai Rumah Jambai from Bekelit, Bekenu is an act of greedy and heartless persons with no regard for the rights of the people nor laws of this country. This criminal act is reminiscent of the attack on TR Surik Muntal in Melikin 2 years ago. The attackers are alleged to be gangsters working for an Oil Palm company and one of the vehicles they were driving is reported to belong to the company Tung Huat. The companies and big bosses must not be allowed to get away with their inhumane and cruel treatment of the people whose lands they are trying to steal. It is truly shocking that the rich would stoop so low as to physically harm innocent people so they can get even richer.
TR Jambai’s woes began as early as 2008 and he has been defending his lands since then. In the latest incident, his car was forced off the road by two cars and he was then beaten and slashed with a samurai sword. One has to question why innocent and powerless villagers are allowed to be bullied and harassed for so long without any recourse.
In order for such appalling acts of violence to stop, the government must review its policy of issuing licences to plantations. It is not difficult to understand that the natives have existed longer that the companies, and that they have deep and long connections with their lands. We cannot blame the people for fighting for their rights. The government must investigate the history and the people of each area to ascertain whether the land is subject to native customary rights before issuing licences to big companies. Obviously this was not done, and the natives are now paying for this neglect by the government. This sad story is being told over and over again, and it has to stop. The government must not wait until someone is killed before taking a serious look at its existing policies and practices.
The police must immediately carry out a thorough investigation of this crime committed against TR Jambai. I’m disappointed to note that they are quick to take action when big companies make complaints against villages but are slow to act when villagers lodge reports against the companies. The police have also shown that they are very capable of immediate and swift action when it comes to complaints against the opposition and civil rights activists. I urge them to show the same dedication and determination in investigating this act of violence against an innocent headman who was only defending his people’s lands. The bullies must not be allowed to get away with it, even if they are powerful community chiefs with connections. I should say especially if they are such community leaders whose duties should be to look after the welfare of the ordinary people.
The Chairman of the Oil Palm company alleged to be behind the attacks is reported to be a Temenggong. I would also urge the government to investigate this as under s 8 of the Community Chiefs and Headmen Ordinance 2004, no person appointed Chief (the definition of which includes Temonggong) or Headman is allowed to engage in any trade, business, activity or undertaking which may place himself in a position of conflict with his position as Chief or Headman. This is clearly an instance of such conflict and the Chairman’s position as Temonggong should be revoked.
N70’ Ba’ Kelalan