Sarawakian native landowners routinely face threats from thugs, UN rapporteur told

Peter John Jaban represents SADIA in submitting the report to the UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur. — Picture courtesy of Peter John Jaban

Peter John Jaban represents SADIA in submitting the report to the UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur. — Picture courtesy of Peter John Jaban

KUCHING, Dec 7 ― Frustrated at the lack of action, several local groups have complained to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association about the fear and harassment that Sarawakian natives are routinely subject to in the defence of their property.

In a report submitted yesterday, Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA), Save Rivers Network (SRN) and Jaringan Orang Asal Se-Malaysia (JOAS) told of native landowners who have been threatened with arrest and even bodily harm by thugs while erecting blockades from encroaching plantation and logging companies.

“These blockades are routinely dispersed by the police or by gangsters employed by the resource extraction companies who act with impunity,” they said in the report sighted by Malay Mail Online.

SADIA was represented by Peter John Jaban and Karen Shepherd, JOAS by Thomas Jalong and Save Rivers by Mark Bujang in submitting the  report to the UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

They added that the majority of these blockades centred around disputes which arose after the state government issued provisional leases to various companies for exploitation of lands belonging to various indigenous communities.

Citing an example, they said six villagers, including the headman, were arrested by the Miri police when they set up blockade at Bekelit, Niah in Miri Division, to stop Tong Huat Plantation from encroaching into their native customary rights land, last year.

“The thugs, employed by plantation company, threw molotov cocktail at headman’s house, burnt his car, attacked him with a Samurai sword and left him for dead,” they said, adding that in May this year, activist Bill Kayong, who was actively assisting the Bekelit community, was shot and killed in his car.

They said that plantation companies often used thugs to threaten the villagers with bodily injuries to stop them from erecting the blockades.

The three civil movements blamed the land policy of former Chief Minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud for failing to recognise the customary rights of indigenous communities over their land as the cause of disputes between the landowners and the plantation companies. – Malay Mail Online

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