Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ba Kelalan blockade dismantled, no arrests

Updated about 35 minutes ago · Published on 3 May 2017 4:12PM · By Desmond Davidson · 0 comments
Ba Kelalan blockade dismantled, no arrests
Police, soldiers and Ba Kelalan community leaders watch as a backhoe loader removes the blockade. – Pic courtesy of Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian, May 3, 2017.
ATTEMPTS by villagers in the remote highland settlement of Ba Kelalan in Sarawak to choke off the food supply to their Indonesian neighbours just across the border in Kalimantan have come to a quick end.

Tempers, however, are reportedly still simmering as a police and army team moved in yesterday afternoon to dismantle the day-old barricade some villagers had erected on the only road to the border.

Heavily used by cross border traders, the road leads to the crossing near the Indonesian village of Long Midang in the Krayan district of North Kalimantan.

The dismantling proceeded without incident as the villagers, who are of the Lun Bawang tribe, did not  resist nor try to stop policemen and soldiers from dismantling the blockade.

“Everything went smoothly as all parties cooperated," said Lawas OCPD Abang Zanal Abidin Abang Ahmad in a text message.

“There were no arrests."

Lawas, hemmed in by Brunei and Sabah, is Sarawak's northernmost district.

The angry Ba Kelalan villagers had set up the blockade after the April 24 shooting and arrest of three youths from the settlement by Indonesian police in a drug bust.

They had hoped to retaliate where it would hurt the Indonesians most – by cutting off access to the stores in the settlement where they bought most of their essential supplies, such as sugar, tea, coffee, flour and cooking oil, as well as building materials like zinc sheets, screws and nails.

The Indonesians also buy fuel for their vehicles in Ba Kelalan. They find it easier to get things from Ba Kelalan as the supply chain from towns like Nunukan and Tarakan on the coast is unreliable.

Specially modified motorcycles with toughened suspension to bear heavy loads, and off-road tyres to negotiate the often slippery mud road, haul these supplies to Long Midang and towns further inland, like Long Bawan, daily.

Fifteen to 20 villagers, with the help of a mechanical digger, erected the barricade on the Labour Day holiday on Monday.

Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian told The Malaysian Insight the dismantling team of three policemen and four soldiers from a military detachment stationed at the settlement, started their work at 1.30pm.

The work, Baru said, was witnessed by the settlement penghulu (communal chief) George Sigar Sultan and the Puneng village chief Gariso Dawat.

The state PKR chief said he was informed the three youths had been sent to Nunukan, the capital of the regency of the North Kalimantan province.

One of the youths identified as Sigar Kadir was shot in the thigh and right hand as he allegedly tried to escape from police custody.

He and two friends had been arrested for being in possession of 50gm of methamphetamine.

Nunukan police chief Assistant Chief Commissioner Pasma Royce in his media conference last week said Sigar had complained he was sick while in lock-up.

He was taken to the Lun Bawang hospital, and he made the attempt to escape as he was about to be transported back to Krayan police headquarters, said Royce.

The police chief said Sigar injured the policemen escorting him but not enough to incapacitate him. The policeman fired the two shots that stopped Sigar in his tracks.

Royce said 14 Malaysians believed to be family members of the three youths then protested the shooting at the border crossing.

“They went to the border demanding that the border gates be shut. When they failed, they threatened to erect a blockade across the road near the border crossing,” Royce was quoted as saying in news reports.

Despite the Malaysian police's assurance of the safety of all Indonesians after the reopening of the border, there are fears of reprisals.

Baru said villagers from both sides of the border have agreed to try to heal the wounds with a gathering in Ba Kelalan tomorrow. – May 3, 2017.

~ The Malaysian Insight

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