Sunday, March 18, 2007

I have to ensure State has a good successor before I retire: Taib

During the hour-long live interview on TV1’s ‘60 Minit Bersama Menteri’ on Wednesday (14/03/07) that he (Tan Sri Taib) would never abandon the State without first ensuring that he had a good successor ready.

This statement from Taib is really demeaning to the politicians to the like of Tan Sri Alfred Jabu and Dato Sri Abang Johari Openg. Being the Deputy Chief Minister for several years, Taib meant to say that Jabu and Johari are not capable leader to be a good successor? If none of his deputies is good, he should sack them. Why keeping a no good leader at the expense of the taxpayer money?

“I hoped to retire last year but the situation did not permit, so I had to wait and prepare a team so that they can continue the work on policies that I have put in place towards ensuring that Sarawak can achieve the developed status like other states come 2020,” said Taib, who is the Sarawak BN State coalition chairman.

It would be almost impossible for Sarawak to achieve a developed state come 2020, because for the past 26 years Taib helmed the state not much progress has been achieved, beside those superficial development in the big town like Kuching, Miri or Sibu. Going further to the interior, you will see the most deplorable road conditions. People are sufferings from rising cost of livings, NCR land being confiscated, longhouse dwellers are being evicted and displaced. They are deprived of their ancestral land. They are threatened and being forced to accept whatever the state government want them to be.

Conflict of Native Customary Rights and practice with the State enactment
Niah Tragic Clash - Updates on 9th September 1999, with historical and new background information.

Author: Unknown

None would find or experience elsewhere, the frenzy rate and extend of subsidiary enactment and amendments to the Sarawak Land Laws (This is well documented in books and research papers.
Recommended: Tanah Pengidup Kitai Our Land is Our Livelihood - The undermining of indigenous land rights and the victimizations of indigenous people in Sarawak, IDEAL publication 1999).

It is through this legislation that indigenous land rights, which initially were accorded full legal efficacy, are gradually but substantially undermined. It has been a process typified by:
· ever-tightening definitions of what constitutes native customary land;
· ever-limiting procedure for establishing native customary rights;
· ever-expanding procedures for the extinguishment of such rights;
· ever-increasing state powers to define for itself compensation rates and procedures for such annulment; · ever-tightening control of movement of indigenous communities;
· ever-severer penalties for failure to comply with state legislation.

Through the legislative process, indigenous land rights become increasingly obscure and restrictive in its legal application.

Can the indigenous communities rely on customary rights as protection against encroachment onto their land? What may result should customary rights and practice conflict with state legislation?

In this case, under the present state land legislation, Rh. Busang and Rh. Bali will have to produce 'legal' proof that there is state recognition of such native customary rights over the disputed land, or they must prove that there was occupation on the land on or before 1957, in order to establish their customary rights.

Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad claimed to hold legal title over the disputed land with a temporary lease from the state land authority. On the other hand, residency of the villagers from these 2 longhouses went back a long time and there has been extensive cultivation over this disputed land by the people. There is also evidence of enforcement of native customary practice on this land.

So, whose rights should prevail?

Hearing of the Chief's Superior Court On 13.06.1999, the Chief's Superior Court heard testimonies of Headman Busang ak Nyandang who lodged the complaint and appeared on behalf of the villagers of Rh. Busang and Rh. Bali and Mr. Airul Faizili b. Abdullah & Tay Siaw Phiang ('Ah Ping') who is the manager of Vintay Enterprise, the contracting company of Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad.

Held in Sepupok, Niah, the Chief's Superior Court was presided by Temenggong Jawi ak Baki, Penghulu Atong and Councillor Mr. Janting, the Court held that Vintay Enterprise was guilty of trespassing onto the farmland belonging the villagers of Rh. Busang. Vintay Enterprise was thenceforth fined RM1,000.00 as 'penti-pemali' (xxxx). The amount was paid immediately and a payment voucher was signed to the effect.

The Inspektor Kawasan (Head of Police Station) Niah, Paul Paran Ibau was present at the hearing of the Chief's Superior Court and agreed to be witness of the proceedings.

Particulars of the "Bayar Adat Penti-pemali" (this phrase means that payment of fine according to the Cutomary Law for unlawful acts or prohibited acts which disturbed the ritually harmonious state of the house, or farm or state of living):
· Babi siko' (1 pig)
· 'Manok siko' (1 cockerel)
· 'Duku sebilah' (1 working knife)
· 'Pinggai seringkap' (1 set of round bronze tray which is used to contain food for offering during offering ceremony "miring")
· 'Kebok sigi enggau belacho sedepa' (one small earthenware jar and a piece of plain cloth at the length of two arms out-stretched)
· 'Pengerugi, pengelelak serta pengiroh' (loss, deprivation, strength consuming as well as take care over it): RM300.00
· Pemerat babi (weight of the pig): 50kg
· Rega babi siko (value per kg of the pig): RM10.00

The Chief's Superior Court, an integral part of the Malaysian judicial system, has the power to adjudicate disputes arising from customary practice in Sarawak.

By the hearing, it clearly indicates that the villagers of the two longhouses have customary rights over the disputed land which is further augmented by the ruling. Vintay Enterprise, through its manager Mr. Airul Faizili b. Abdullah @ Tay Siaw Phiang ('Ah Ping') has also willingly submitted itself to the ruling of the Chief's Superior Court, and has abided by its decision.

Sadly, despite this ruling of the Chief's Superior Court and in total disregard of the judicial system in this country, Vintay Enterprise as contractor of Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad continued its encroachment of the village farmland, this time with the assistance of 6 Field Force Police personnel (Ref: Police report lodged by a villager, Majang ak Guba on 20.06.1999, NA/RPT/513/99).

The company based its claim over the disputed land through a letter issued by the Land & Survey Department, Miri Division, dated 17.09.1997 which was received by SOP on 11.02.1998, indicating a lapse of 5 months in the transmission of such an important document, which approved the application of Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad for land by the issuance of 60 years' provisional lease to the company.

However, a land search conducted by the delegation of villagers visiting the Land & Survey Department Headquarters in Kuching on 30.07.1999 had shown that no person or company was issued with the title on land described as Lot 75, Sawai Land District, Niah, Sarawak, where upon the disputed land was located.

In Malaysia, where the system of land registration was adopted and practised, records of the land registry is conclusive. It is dubious how SOP could produce a letter from the Land & Survey Department (Miri Division) to show that it was issued with the land lease while there was no such record in the Central Registry in Kuching, the State capital.

While awaiting the explanation of the authenticity of the letter held by SOP, there is a further question whether this piece of land should rightly be alienated to SOP.

It must be noted that the application of the villagers for land rights from the 2 longhouses had gone back 2 decades.

On 19.06.1979, the Headman of Rh. Bali, TR Bali ak Belukun and the families submitted a written application to the Miri District Land & Survey Department for land alienation and allocation.

In a letter dated 25.06.1979 [Ref: 911.0(VII)-92], the Director of Forest (Miri District) replied TR Bali ak Belukun saying that the application could not be considered because the particular land was within the Niah Protected Forest Reserve.

As indigenous communities residing over the land, Rh. Busang and Rh. Bali together with other nearby longhouse communities continued to dwell and cultivate on the farmland in the vicinity, in accordance with their customary practice.

Over the years, the industrious villagers of these communities planted cash crops such as pepper, rubber, fruit trees etc and later oil palm and had gained much prosperity.

Life had been harmonious and peaceful for the communities in the region until the early nineties when plantation companies began to occupy land in the same district.

Many longhouse communities began to apply for land for communal usage in order to protect their landed interests and some had been successful.

Rh. Busang and Rh. Bali submitted their joint application for land alienation on 31.01.1994. The 2 headmen, TR. Busang and TR. Bali, with 19 other families of the 2 longhouses requested the state land authority to alienate communal land to the size of 20 acres for every family, in order for them to plant crops and do market gardening. This represents a massive concession on the villagers as such acreage represents only a small fraction of the land they could have asked for, using the customary practice as a yardstick.

Over the years, these 2 longhouse communities successively sent delegations to visit the Land & Survey Department in Miri and Kuching to follow up on the initial application. Numerous letters were written and sent to these land authorities, including those dated 07.11.1994, 21.8.1997, 13.04.1998, 07.05.1998 and 30.07.1999.

Within the same period, no less than 100 letters and copies were also sent to various offices, ministers and political leaders seeking their support and assistance.

Their applications to the Land & Survey Department, through visits and letters, were all turned down with no reasons given. Their letters to the ministers and government leaders were plainly ignored.

However, the villagers of Rh. Busang and Rh. Bali continued the tedious and costly effort in the hope that their application would one day be considered by the land authorities. Such tolerance and patience is typical of the indigenous communities in Sarawak.

Undoubtedly, the unfortunate incident on the 1st September clash would have been avoided if the land authorities or the government had even considered the most reasonable plight of the villagers at any time during the last 20 years.

It is therefore most unfair for the controlled Malaysian mass media to portray the villagers as the violent aggressors in their dismal reports when they have turned a deaf ear to the plights of the villagers and were completely ignorant of the development in this land dispute which dated back 2 decades.

The Malaysian mass media must be enlightened that there has never been any reported incident of violence resulted from land disputes which was initiated by the indigenous communities in Sarawak.

The law enforcement body at a press conference held in Bintulu, Sarawak on 09.09.1999, Member of Parliament for Bintulu, Mr. Chew Chin Sing and Elam ak Busang, a daughter of the arrested headman TR. Busang ak Nyandang, revealed 7 police reports which had been lodged by community representatives of Rh. Busang and Rh. Bali prior to the clash. They also disclosed a letter written by the village committee to the Malaysian Inspector General of Police at the Police Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

Content of the 7 police reports lodged by the community representatives:

1. Police Report file number NA/RPT/513/99 (Report lodged by Majang ak Guba on 20.06.1999)On behalf of the villagers, Majang reported that on the 19.06.1999, a team of workers (number undetermined) belonging to the contractor of the Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad encroached into the farmland belonging to Rh. (Longhouse) Bali and Rh. Busang. In presence were 6 Field Force policemen. Majang reported that 660 oil palm trees, 10 durian (fruit) trees, 10 rambutan (fruit) trees, 5 banana trees which were planted by the villagers were bulldozed. Majang requested the police to investigate into the matter and halt the destruction as clearing on the villagers' farmland was carried out without their permission and it had polluted their source of drinking water.

2. Police Report file number NA/RPT/558/99 (Report lodged by Lily ak Busang on 05.07.1999)On behalf of the villagers of Rh. Busang and Rh. Bali, Lily reported to the police that 150 villagers of the said 2 longhouses conducted a 'Miring' (customary rite) at their farmland which was destroyed by the contractor of Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad. At about 13:30 hours on that day, the workers of the plantation company ignored the warning of the villagers and broke the ritual symbols. The villagers hoped that the police would take appropriate actions on the report lodged.

3. Police Report file number NA/RPT/583/99 (Report lodged by Lily ak Busang on 11.07.1999)On behalf of the villagers of Rh. Busang and Rh. Bali, Lily reported that up to this date, workers of the contractor of Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad had destroyed more than 10 hectares of farmland on which the villagers had cultivated. Lily reported that the workers were led by one man known as "Ah Tie". By this report, the villagers sought help from the police to halt the encroachment by the plantation pending result of surveying conducted by the Land & Survey Department.

4. Police Report file number NA/RPT/640/99 (Report lodged by Lily ak Busang on 27.07.1999)Lily reported that on the same morning, the villagers had surveyed the extend of cash crops destroyed by the workers of Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad as:

· Oil palm: 660 trees; Rubber: 50 trees; Fruit trees: 50 (belonging to Emban ak Lajun)
· Oil palm: 970 trees; Rubber: 640 trees; Fruit trees: 875 (belonging to Ungut ak Kadukom)
· Oil palm: 450 trees; Rubber: 78 trees; Fruit trees: 130 (belonging to Atu ak Lamada)
· Oil palm: 350 trees; Rubber: 50 trees; Fruit trees: 90 (belonging to Busang ak Nyandang)
· Oil palm: 150 trees; Rubber: 143 trees; Fruit trees: 60 (belonging to Majang ak Cuba)
· Oil palm: 357 trees; Rubber: 1000 trees; Fruit trees: 75 (belonging to Langgong ak Mandang)
The report called on the police to investigate into the matter.

5. Police Report file number NA/RPT/686/99 (Report lodged by Majang ak Guba on 09.08.1999)Majang reported that on the morning, a group of villagers including himself were confronted by a group of workers (driving caterpillar trucks) led by one man named "Ah Kong" who challenged them to prove that they had land title over the land. Majang reported that the villagers were afraid to answer because one of the workers pulled out a 'samurai' sword. The villagers left the scene hurriedly because they did not want anything undesirable to happen to the villagers. The report called on the police to take immediate and appropriate actions.

6. Police Report file number NA/RPT/694/99 (Report lodged by Elam ak Busang on 11.08.1999)Elam reported that at about 1.30pm on this date, 7 people of Chinese origin amongst whom one was known to the villagers as "Ah Kong", came to Rh. Busang in a Suzuki Jeep with registration number MD3641Q. They stopped for a while and left the longhouse. The report was lodged because the villagers were worried that undesirable incidents might happen to them and their family members.

7. Police Report file number NA/RPT/705/99 (Report lodged by Elam ak Busang on 14.08.1999)Elam reported to the police that about 15 workers of the contractor of Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad resumed their destruction of the villagers' farmland with 2 bulldozers despite the fact that no agreement had been reached between the villagers and the company yet. This report was lodged because at the scene, there was in presence 12 'gangsters' who carried 2 'samurai' swords, 8 pieces of wood measuring 2 1/2" x 5' and 2 iron pipes each measuring 5 feet in length. The report was lodged to call on the police to take appropriate actions to ensure the security of the villagers.

Rightly concerned about the apparent inaction from the area police and the real need to protect the communities, the villagers wrote and sent a letter to the highest police authority in the country to seek his immediate intervention.

The letter to the Inspector General of Police obviously did not generate the required action.
As was disclosed by MP Chew Chin Sing, and supported by photographs taken by the villagers, the police contingent lead by Chief of Niah Police Station Chief Inspector Paul Paren came to the disputed site on the 10.08.1999. Photographs of the 'samurai' swords and other dangerous weapons found in the cars of the gangsters were taken by the police.

Evidently, these gangsters were not arrested, least of all charged, for possession of those dangerous weapons.

The unfortunate incident would have been avoided if the police had taken necessary and appropriate action in response to the reports lodged by the villagers. It is puzzling, to say the least, why the police did not take any action at all.

It must be added that the notoriety of the 4 deceased and their gang of friends are well known to the people in this region. The same group was employed to cow and threaten indigenous villagers in Bakong, Bong, and other longhouse communities in Niah-Suai area who acted to resist the encroachment of the particular plantation company.

Leader of the group, Liaw Teck Kong (deceased), known to the villagers as 'Ah Kong', was the brother-in-law of Ling Chiong Sing (the Ling family is one of the close business associates of the Mahmud family, hence enjoying tremendous political power and influence in Sarawak, especially in Miri), a director of Sarawak Oil Palm Berhad. His brother Ah Loi is reputedly the most feared figure in Miri, reputed to have enormous connection with the law enforcers and politicians in this town.

It is still undisclosed how the incident had happened. However, it is most unconvincing that the villagers were the aggressors since they had taken the trouble to lodge 7 police reports and written to the IGP with photographs. From the police reports, it can also be seen that they had tried to tolerate and avoid the physical conflicts with the group of intruders.

The 22 villagers, aged between 17 to 74, now under remand are:
Villagers from Busang Longhouse
1. TR Busang ak Nyandang (Headman)
2. Robert ak Beji
3. Ma Chew Hwa
4. Ludan ak Mat
5. Janang ak Bandang
6. Liau ak Rambol

Villagers from Bali Longhouse
1. TR Bali ak Belukun (Headman)
2. Emban ak Lajon
3. Samsul ak Bundak
4. Unggut ak Kadukom
5. Ijau ak Rima
6. Rentap ak Lajon
7. Guba ak Jugol
8. Majang ak Guba
9. Jalin ak Antom
10. Langgong ak Mandang
11. Nyaling ak Bundang
12. Manggat ak Nyaling
13. Ruyang ak Dingun
14. Sait ak Utat
15. Mawat ak Sait
16. Meraka ak Sait

'Konsep Baru' of the NCR land development by Sarawak State Government


The disputes of NCR (native customary right) land between the indigenous people of Sarawak and the various state development agencies has been going on since earlier this century when other settlers landed.

The disputes of NCR (native customary right) land between the indigenous people of Sarawak and the various state development agencies has been going on since earlier this century when other settlers landed.

It became more noticeable in the 60s when logging first started in swamp forest and the dispute accelerated in the mid 70s when the logging industry moved upstream. The conflicts intensified lately when new legislation encouraged developers to open up further NCR land in the name of development.

Since the second half of 1995, The Sarawak state government has introduced a NCR land development scheme called 'Konsep Baru', or literally translated as 'New Concept'.

In this scheme, all NCR lands in an area would be amalgamated into one large block deleting existing boundaries and only ONE land title is to be issued.

Two state agencies, the Sarawak Land Development Board (SLDB) and the Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA) would act as the Trust Agents (with Power of Attorney [P.A.]) for the NCR landowners to form joint-venture companies with foreign or local private plantation companies. These private companies would be selected by the agencies themselves, to be partners in the implementation of plantation projects on Native Customary Land.

The land title would be issued in the name of the joint-venture company lasting a period of 60 years. Upon expiry of the 60 years, the NCR landowners 'may apply' to the 'Land and Survey Department' for the issue of a grant over one's land and the Superintendent of Land & Survey 'may issue' the grant to the landowner with terms and conditions as he deems fit to impose.

This is the process recently being passed (November, 1997) in the Sarawak Dewan Undangan Negeri (State Legislative Assembly).

The difference between NCR land and lease land is that the NCR land is perpetual subject to observance of customary laws and practices, but a grant of land by the Sarawak government is a renewable lease for 60 years. In addition, the words used in the legislation passed in November 1997 which specify 'may apply' and 'may issue' are non-guarantee terms.

In the joint-venture (JV) company set-up, the private concerns will have 60% equity while the State land agency will hold 10%, and the NCR landowners will get 30% equity share for 'investing their land' for a renewable term of 60 years.

In this joint-venture set-up, the landowners do not have any say nor the right to sit in the JV Board since they would be made to sign the 'Power Of Attorney' to leave all rights over their lands to the Managing Agent before the project begins.

After 60 years, the land may be given back to the NCR landowners, but a caveat that the investing concerns have had recouped their capital investments.

The existing land code governing all land matters in the state does not give the NCR landowners any right to what the communities claim as 'Menoa' (ancestral domain).

The indigenous peoples have been repeatedly told that if they don't jump aboard plantation schemes or have their NCR land developed, they would lose everything because land would be developed anyway. The government can do that by invoking other provisions in the Sarawak Land Code because NCR land is defined differently in the statute and as with other categories of land, the Minister is empowered to declare any piece of land as developed area hence taking over such land for development purposes.

In the JV company, the project developers, who do not need to buy land but just put in capital investment to develop the plantations, get a 60% stake. In addition, the JV company can use the land to borrow money locally or aboard. If they don't make profit during the initial 60 years, they can seek the permission of the Minister to extend the land lease.

If the NCR land is forested, the JV Company will further have free capital in areas with merchandise timber through logging.

As the NCR landowners are rid of power and rights to check the JV's management, accounts and all related matters, the landowners cannot ensure themselves that the JV Company is making profit and that they would be receiving appropriate portions of any dividend.

The fear of losing their ancestral land indefinitely is not un-founded at all.

The cultural values of the NCR land to the indigenous communities are not addressed by the government in formulating this 'konsep Baru'. In pursuant to the proposed changes, the cultural alienation and threat to a unique identity and integrity of the Sarawak indigenous communities is an inevitable result.

Besides, when the indigenous communities are not involved in the management of the JV company and they have no control over what is being proposed, the intention of such schemes by the Sarawak state government - that is to lift the standard of living of the rural indigenous communities and to rid these communities of poverty - is doubtful. This is because the aspirations, needs and other general interests of the indigenous communities are not being taken care of in the proposal.

The cases of dispute over the NCR land as some of the examples outlined below, the dispute shows no sign of heading for any amicable settlement and instead, there are increasing cases of hardships and unhappiness being experienced by these indigenous communities, with even cases of death as was the case in Bakong when the police fired and killed a person involved in a land dispute.

If anything, all indications point to the State authorities stepping up its effort to quell any form of dissent, however legitimate and peaceful, as is the case of Sarawak's indigenous communities over such proposal.
1. Bintulu Pulp and Paper Mill Project Borneo Paper and Pulp Mill project (a joint venture of Sarawak Timber Industry Corporation [a State Government body] with 40% interest and Asia Pulp Company Limited with 60% [a Singapore based holding company attached to Indonesian owned Sinar Mas Group]) is located in a new township named Semarakan, some 45 km south of Bintulu and 23 km from Tatau Town at the Tatau River bridge of Sibu-Bintulu Road.

A 3,000 hectare land next to the proposed Borneo Pulp and Paper Mill project had being earmarked for the township to accommodate more than 10,000 people working in various categories of jobs in the projects.

The mill is leading to further clearing of 216,000 ha (28% or 60,000 ha are NCR land) of land in the surrounding area for namely Acacia Mangium plantation where synthetic chemical fertiliser (800 g per tree) and pesticide would be applied. A total of 606,000 ha of primary and logged over forest land is designated as supply ground for the pulp and paper mill.

An EIA for the projects was carried out in 1996 and the project was approved in December in the same year. The 277 families of the immediately affected 12 longhouses only then started to realize that the promise of a compensation of RM 6,000 for an acre has shrank to RM 1,600.

The contractors soon arrived to carry out land clearing and claiming the right to sell the logged timber. All these factors sparked off immediate conflict between many local residents with the project proponent.
A committee of 7 members was formed by the affected families in September 1997, headed by Jaili bin Sulaiman, an ethnic Kenyah Muslim. It exists to seek justice and fair compensation for the NCR landowners.

On 5 November 1997, Jaili was arrested and charged with threatening and causing obstruction to the proposed RM3 billion project. The incident then led to the demonstration of 30 other members of the community, demanding the immediate release of their leader in front of the police station in Bintulu where he was being remanded.

The people then further organise themselves in seeking a court injunction to prohibit the project for taking over their NCR land in the total 6,200 ha of area designated for the mill project. Their counsel has also filed an initial urgent application on behalf of Jaili in Miri Hugh Court against the Ministerial Directive dated 6 February, 1997 and the court set 22 April as the date for the hearing.

2. Bakong shooting case: A dispute happened between the Iban longhouse villagers in Bakong (about 100 km from Miri) against workers of the companies that are going to develop their land. During the height of the incident, the villagers were alleged to have seized three bulldozers from the workers and allegedly attacked the police officers who had moved in to retrieve the bulldozers.

Three villagers and eight policemen were injured in the clash which followed. A villager later died from a gunshot wound in the head at the Miri General Hospital.

On 29 December 1997, the longhouse head TR. Banggau Andop & 2 others filed a suit to stop the activities of the oil palm plantation companies, Segarakam Sdn Bhd, Prana Sdn Bhd, and Empresa (M) Sdn Bhd within their native customary land. They also named the Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA) and the state government as defendants in the case. They are challenging the issue with intend to have the court declare as illegal, null and void the provisional lease issued by the Land and Surveys Department.

The counsel for Prana Sdn Bhd told the court that the firm had stop operation and is withdrawing from the area.

Immediately after the court case on 23rd January 1998, Headman TR. Bangga was arrested by the police. There was no explanation given to him for his arrest. When TR. Bangga was release after the remand, he was charged by the police with 'gang robbery' and 'using of arms in a riot'. However, these charges are yet to be produced to the magistrate. This shows that instead of carrying out an investigation on the shooting, the police are pressing serious charges against the community people.

3. In Sg. Bong 42 Indigenous People were arrested in Sg. Bong, Teru, Miri Division in a dispute with an oil palm plantation company when they were trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the land surveyors who work for the plantation company in June, 1997. The 42 arrested were then asked to sign a bond of good behaviour.

A number of them refused to sign and challenged the magistrate in the High Court. The court ruled in favour of the people. This is a clear case of wrongful arrest. The community of Rumah Reggie then challenged the company by filing a court injunction against the plantation company, Nationmark, with the hearing set for April, 1998.

4. Problems faced by the Penan community in Ulu Baram. The Penan are one of the several smaller indigenous ethnic groups in Sarawak, with some still leading their already threatened nomadic lifestyles. They were in Sarawak even before the Brunei sultanate reign in Sarawak.

The livelihood of the Penan community in Ulu Baram has been greatly affected by the logging activity in their areas since the loggers encroached into the interior of Baram, Miri Division in mid 1980s.

A series of blockades highlighted in 1987 had brought national as well as international attention. However, much efforts in the last ten year, including the numerous appeals made by the Penan themselves to the authorities and parties concern seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

The problems they continue to face become more immediately, and among others, are:
Logging is continuing to wreck havoc on the environment, encroached upon communal territories, and threaten the very existence of the people;

Water supply from the rivers and other water catchment area being polluted by logging and related activities;

The weather is getting hotter with disappearing forest, resulting in many people getting sick; (note: they are people of deep forest, drastic change of physical environment would be hard for them to adjust)

The continuing presence of armed Police Field Force and the numerous threat from the police against community people.

With the forest fast disappearing, their main source of livelihood is almost destroyed. The plants and trees, which act as a combination of food and medicinal source for the people and various animals, are decreasing and a lot of fish in the rivers are killed due to pollution.

Besides, outsiders and other communities who have the means have intruded into the Penan village vicinity and compete for their wild game, fish and other food sources. This has also caused tension among the different communities.

All these problems are a consequence of the activities of timber companies and the armed Police Field Force (PFF) in the area, with the PFF clearly on the side on the timber companies and their workers.
Whenever the affected villagers want to defend their rights over their land from further destruction by the timber companies, the PFF would be there to intimidate the Penan harshly and sometimes pointing their guns towards them, throwing tear gas, or arrest them.

Many have in fact been arrested, imprisoned and some are still awaiting their trial for defending the Penan's land and their livelihood. These have continued to worsen the people's suffering.

5. Sebatu-Suai illegal land clearing. The 110 families of Sebatu-Suai, in the Miri Division is in the process of filing for a court injunction to stop plantation company from further carry out work on their NCR land.

Since July 1996, these 110 Iban families at Sebatu-Suai have been struggling to protect their NCR land from being bulldozed and turned into an oil palm plantation by a joint-venture company between the Sarawak State Government and Tradewinds Plantation Services Sdn Bhd of West Malaysia.

Johnson Enterprise, Tradewinds contractor, had initially sent the local residents a letter offering to buy their land at RM100/ per acre. However, this was met with strong rejection by these 110 families. Nevertheless, Johnson Enterprise continued its field clearing work without the affected peoples' consent.

A series of community action to stop the destruction of their crops and land have been done by the people since the beginning, including:

· complaint lodged with the District Officer and requested for official intervention on 17th Sept.1996;
· held 'Miring Bebuling Menoa' ceremony according to Adat Asal (traditional customs) on 3 Dec.1996 and at the same day withheld company's bulldozer and sent it to Batu Niah Police Station hoping to halt further damage to their land;
· lodged police report on the damaged of their property caused by the plantation company on 7 Dec.1996;
· gathering of 60 persons at their 'temuda' (communal land) to stop the workers from continuing field work and withheld bulldozer and later submitted the key to the police station on 16 January.1997.

Instead of looking into their issue, the authority sent a troop of policemen , about 15 in number, on 17 Jan.1997 to one of the longhouse, Rumah Junit, and remanded 5 persons for 10 nights at the Miri police station for investigation and later charged them for disturbing peace.

They were released on self-bail of RM1000/- each. Later, the Magistrate bonded them over for good behaviour.

6. Suai Tengah people's alert. In December, 1997 Sarawak Oil Palm Bhd (S.O.P.), a public listed company with a state statutory body, the Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA) being majority share holders, commissioned a surveying work in the affected longhouses' menoa through private surveying company without permission from the 4 longhouses, - Rh. Lasan, Rh. Libau, Rh. Gerang, and Rh. Abot., Miri Division.

Also on 3 Jan.1998, the longhouse people came across a 'News In Brief' in a local newspaper announcing the plan of S.O.P. to open another 9 blocks of land in their area for plantation. The longhouse residents immediately realised that the two matters were in fact related or of the same project.

These Iban residents immediately took up a series of action to deal with this unauthorised survey issue. A dialogue session was arranged at Sepupok Niah SAO (Senior Administrative Officer) Office on 17.1.98.
The longhouse delegation of about 55 persons met with the manager, assistant manager and high ranking officer of Sarawak Oil Palm with the SAO as witness.

Then on 21.1.98, the representatives of the 4 longhouses went to Kuching, the State capital, to submit their memorandum in person to the Land Development Minister, Datuk Alfred Jabu and ex-Land Development Minister, Datuk Celestine Ujang.

On 24 - 27 Jan. 1998, for 4 consecutive days, the people of these 4 longhouses carried out boundary marking work on their own menoa and put up sign board of notice to deter further encroachment from outsiders.

Even after these actions, the people still felt uneasy and rather worried about the said plan of S.O.P.

An inter-longhouses meeting was called on 4 Feb.1998 to decide on actions to be taken. On the next day, a delegation of 25 representatives (Headmen and longhouse representatives) went to Bintulu to meet with the chairman of PBDS (Parti Bangsa Dayak Sarawak is a component party of the ruling National Front Coalition Government) and the State Assembly member, Mr. Michael Sim to express their anxiety over the plantation matter. These two persons in the governing structure promised to bring the matter to the attention of the higher authority.

The longhouse folks did not feel much better after these words of assurance.

On 6 Feb. 98, they had another inter-longhouse meeting and this time they decided to go to a lawyer to draft and send two memorandum letters on the matter. This was done on 9 Feb. 1998 in Miri.

7. Kanowit-Machan resistence. This area is one of the pilot project of developing NCR land according to 'Konsep Baru' beginning in 1997. However, several longhouses in Sungei Tuah (such as Rumah Pius and two others) and in Machan-Durin, Sibu Division (such as Rumah Jali, some families from other longhouses such as Rumah Muli and Seling) have strongly and repeatedly informed the authority of their stance against joining the oil palm plantation, and instead had chosen to develop the land by themselves.

However, the authority and the plantation company concerned seemingly choose to ignore their rights to decide on their own. All through the field clearing period for the oil palm planting, bulldozers razed through their temuda and Menoa without permission or consultation. Crops, fruit trees as well as the only gravity pipe water system were destroyed and land were made bareness.

Affected families then organised themselves and took shift to check and guard their land and menoa boundary in order to deter further encroachment (such as Rumah Jali's folks were on a 24 hours shift duty). Nevertheless, some parts of their land were still damaged by the plantation activities. Protest letters demanding cessation of encroachment activities and compensation for the land disturbed according to Adat (traditional custom) were either sent to or handed in person to the plantation company and authority concerned.

After all these rounds of defending their rights to their own land, the plantation company have presently cease to further encroach onto their land but demand for compensation to damages are still yet to be settled.

24 May 2000 - Press Statement

It is most distressing and disappointing that the Land Code (Amendment) Bill 2000 was passed on 9th of May, 2000 by the Dewan Undangan Negeri Sarawak within such a short time and no clarification or explanation were offered to address the doubts of natives in Sarawak as to protection and preservation of their customary rights and practice over their ancestral land.

Contrary to their wishes and aspiration, the passage of this Land Code (Amendment) Bill further restricts the indigenous communities to their claims for native customary rights over their land and enables the state government to extinguish such customary rights with greater ease.

Before the amendment, the Indigenous communities could claim and prove their rights in accordance to the provisions of the Land Code and the adat, or customary laws and practice.

With the amendment, the native rights over land are restricted to the description of the new bill, which in actual sense is a denial of the full essence of the adat.

The new bill deleted the clause of 5(2)(f) 'any other lawful methods' in claiming Native Customary Right, NCR land. This would not allow them to claim rights over the menoa (Iban term for ancestral domains or communities territory), pulau galau (communal forest) and penurip (Penan adat of forest area for hunting-gathering purposes) or Jelajah Asal for the Kenyah and Kayan, which are essential to the indigenous communities in maintaining their ways of living.

The restricted claim includes only the temuda such as farmland, buried ground or shrine. In this sense, the amendment denies the rights of the indigenous people to continue their culture and practices.

Such amendment can be seen as an effort to give easier way for the top down approach of centralisation in the implementation of leader's single-minded vision of development, rather than decentralised diverse and dynamic systems. This will inevitably led to monoculture or homogenous way of living.

Consequently, the blessed cultural diversity of the nation would eventually be lost as a result of the denial of indigenous people's rights.

Further, in the amendment, the Register of native rights is a separate register from the Register kept in the Land Office. It is unlikely that such title is of any value because the registration is merely a record with no conclusive prove of ownership to the land. It is therefore, not useful for any transfer, transmission, acquisition or inheritance, and bank loan purposes.

We, the undersigned NGOs would like to call for a review of the amendment, to give time for consultation with the indigenous communities, and to commission further study of the NCR land issue, as well as to open for more public discussion.

A sincere recognition of native customary land rights would have to incorporate the claims with the Register kept in the Land Office, with document of tittles given to these landowners with land tenure in perpetuity.

Landmark Ruling Secures Native Land Rights
By Harlan Thompson

On May 12th, 2001, the High Court in Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, issued an extraordinary ruling that could have sweeping consequences for indigenous land rights. After two years of litigation, the court upheld the customary rights the indigenous Iban village of Rumah Nor, finding that the Sarawak Land and Survey Department has wrongfully issued a license to the Borneo Paper and Pulp Company who had in turn destroyed a tract of rainforest belonging to the community.

On May 12th, 2001, the High Court in Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, issued an extraordinary ruling that could have sweeping consequences for indigenous land rights. After two years of litigation, the court upheld the customary rights the indigenous Iban village of Rumah Nor, finding that the Sarawak Land and Survey Department has wrongfully issued a license to the Borneo Paper and Pulp Company who had in turn destroyed a tract of rainforest belonging to the community.

This decision-which in no uncertain terms expands the definition of customary lands to include rivers, streams and communal forests-is a significant precedent for native villagers seeking land rights in Malaysia. Prior to the ruling, only farmlands actively cultivated by forest dependent communities could be considered native customary lands.

Over the years, laws and legislation in Sarawak have chipped away at indigenous rights to ancestral lands, so indigenous groups have been overjoyed by the news. Malaysia lawyer Meena Raman commented, "The court decision was a very major victory in terms of the jurisprudence on native rights. Let's hope it hope that it will withstand any further appeals to the upper courts."

Immediately following the decision, both the Sarawak Land and Survey Department and Borneo Paper and Pulp Company announced they would appeal the case. Yet in doing so, they will face significant pressure from indigenous Dayak groups who make up the majority in Sarawak and will likely make this a major election issue in the coming months. If upheld, the ruling could have broad implications for native land rights struggles around the world, since legal precedents from British Commonwealth countries like Malaysia can be used in other Commonwealth countries.

The ruling Two years ago, the Borneo Pulp and Paper Plantation (BPP) company began cutting down forests claimed by the Iban community of Rumah Nor. The BPP had been granted a title from Sarawak's Land and Survey Department to create a 1 million hectare plantation for raising fast growing tree species. Villagers from Rumah Nor were never informed or consulted about the title, and when they discovered the damage to their land, they sued to stop the logging and claim damages.

Given that recent laws and court decisions have favored industrial developers over indigenous farmers, this decision handed down by High Court Judge Datuk Ian Chin Hon Chong comes as a shock. The High Court ruled that the BPP was not allowed to enter a disputed 672 hectare area, and placed an immediate injunction on the company from entering these lands. The BPP title to this area was declared null and void, and the Land and Survey Department was ordered to rectify the BPP land title to exclude this area. The judge furthermore ordered BPP to pay all court costs incurred by the villagers of Rumah Nor.

However, it was the legal reasoning of Judge Ian Chin that proved most encouraging for native groups. In a 96 page verdict, he ruled that indigenous land rights were in existence before any external power controlled Sarawak, and therefore such rights were natural rights and "not dependent for its existence on any legislation, executive or judicial declaration". He further ruled that these rights extended not only to areas farmed, but to all forests, rivers and streams within one half day's journey from a village longhouse, unless limited by the borders of other nearby villages.

Common practice in Sarawak requires communities to prove to outsiders their Native Customary Rights (NCR). Perhaps half of all of Sarawak's lands should be classified as NCR lands, but so far very few villages have cleared all of the many legal hurdles needed for their NCR status to be officially recognized. So indigenous people are often treated like squatters on their own lands when loggers approach. Judge Chin, however, ruled the assumption should be that such lands are NCR lands, and the onus will be on other claimants to prove that they are not.

When considering arguments raised by the defendants, Judge Chin appeared sympathetic to the plight of indigenous peoples. For instance, the defendants did not argue that since a logging company cut down most of the large trees on Rumah Nor’s lands in the 1980, the village had given their forest rights to that logging company. The judge disagreed, stating "we must not forget that the natives ... consist of not only adults but children as well, and it is inconceivable that such children can be deprived of their rights just because the adults decide to sell some or all of the timber from a forest." He also ruled that the cutting of trees in the 1980's was the destruction of valuable evidence determining how old the forest was, and that in future cases tree data would need to be collected and inquiries into land claims conducted before any logging could proceed. Currently, villagers often do not know their land is being logged until the bulldozers and chainsaws have arrived.

Reactions Two hundred indigenous people were at the court when the lawyer for the plaintiffs, Baru Bian, read out the verdict. Many elders cried unashamedly. Village headman Nor Nyawai stated, "I am breathless and I simply cannot describe just how happy and relieved I feel right now." The indigenous community is euphoric, and villagers all over Sarawak are planning especially joyous celebrations for Gawai Dayak, the harvest festival held on June 1st.

Yet news of the case is spreading mainly by word of mouth, as Sarawak's mainstream media has refused to cover the court case. Most radio stations and one major newspaper, the Sarawak Tribune, have blacked out the story all together. The media silence is not surprising in Sarawak where most media outlets are owned by logging and plantation interests who would be adversely affected by the ruling if more villages assert their land rights.

The government announced its opposition to the ruling and will appeal the decision, since the Sarawak State Land and Survey Department is one of the defendants. The government opposition is not surprising given that Sarawak's Chief Minister has gained billions from handing out logging concessions, and the Environmental Minister is one of the largest logging concession holders in the state. In fact, many are wondering how far the government will go to oppose the ruling. The Appellate Court that will review the ruling ordinarily only looks at the finer details of the case and does not change the main thrust of the High Court's ruling, but they may face pressure to make major changes in this instance. In other cases in Malaysia, judges issuing rulings that strongly conflict with government interests have been forced to retire.

Judge Chin ruled that communities could lose their NCR rights if laws explicitly extinguish them, and if the government loses the appeal they may press hard to pass new laws doing just that. However, approximately half of Sarawak's population is indigenous, and so such steps would be unpopular. The ruling party has been beset by troubles lately, and can ill afford to alienate more voters. Elections will be held later this year, and already the opposition party Keadilan Sarawak has announced that they will make the government's opposition to the ruling a major issue in the upcoming campaign.

Maps were essential. The ruling would never have come about without years of hard work by local non-governmental organizations (NGO's) who have organized local communities and helped them understand and defend their legal rights. Rumah Nor was assisted by the Borneo Resources Institute (BRIMAS) and a legal team headed by lead council Baru Bian. A crucial piece of evidence in the case was a village map created by BRIMAS mapper Samy Anak Ising. Samy was cross examined for three days in the court room, as the defendants led by BPP questioned the methods, data and equipment he used to make the map. In the end, the judge declared, "the map he produced is as accurate as it can possibly be given the equipment he has."

The importance placed on the map in the judge's written ruling was a vindication for The Borneo Project's mapping program. Starting in 1995, The Berkeley, California based Borneo Project helped initiate a mapping program with several local NGO's, including BRIMAS, and Samy Ising was one of the many mappers trained by the Borneo Project.

This court case should greatly facilitate the use of maps in future cases. Judge Chin ruled that while the defendants "demanded perfection" from the map, such perfection was not necessary in proving who owned the disputed land area. Currently over 20 cases involving NCR claims are working their way through the Sarawak court system, and over 50 villages have been mapped. But the need for additional maps and lawsuits to prove NCR rights will undoubtedly grow in the wake of this ruling.

While the full implications of this case may not be known for a long time to come, the short term impacts have provided a boost to the indigenous and environmental movements, not only in Sarawak, but worldwide. Just as Judge Chin quoted precedents from Australia and Canada in making his ruling, so this decision may be used by native groups in any of the 54 countries belonging to the British Commonwealth. Defendants for Borneo Paper and Pulp argued in their case that "the natives are squatters" on their own traditional lands, and for far too long the government has been treating them as such. At least for now, that argument is no longer legally defensible.

The only policies that Taib's administration had proudly acknowledge is his so called 'Politics of Development' which is more of 'Politics of Exploitation'. Exploitation of the state natural resources, the NCR land, practising of nepotism and cronyism.

According to Dato Daniel Tajem the state government is carrying out a “legal genocide” by using the law to take away native customary rights (NCR) land and to abolish the word ‘Dayak’ as a subtle means of annihilating the community.

"Sarawak is rich, the leaders are rich but the rakyat is poor", said Anwar Ibrahim at a press conference in Kuching during the 2006 Sate Election. World Bank report on Malaysia's poverty index which revealed that most of the 1 million hardcore poor comprised Sarawak’s Dayaks and Sabah native peoples.

For example, the majority of the Ibans are still trapped in low-return agricultural activities, low-paying jobs, and lack access to education and business opportunities.

Look at the rural infrastructures (eg. trunk road, village road, etc) are in most deplorable condition.
When the host pressed him for an indication of who his successor could be, he answered: “I try to plan. Over the last 10 years, I have groomed some people but as I had said I can only plan but God will decide".

There he goes, invoking God as an excussed. He said he had groomed some people over the last 10 years, but what happened to those he has groomed? Where are they now?

Infact the very people he has groomed still in the government, speak volume of Taib's dictatorial style. He is in actual fact are reluctant to religuish his post as Chief Minister due to the fact that he could not trusted the very people he has groomed to protect his family vast business interests in the state.

It was Dato Sri Effendi Norwawi and Dato Adenan Satem, used to be his most trusted men. But due to Effendi marital and other personal problems, Taib was reluctant to hand over the Chief Ministership at that time. It was a well known secret that during Effendi tenured as SEDC CEO that Taib began to en-masse his family enormous wealth and fortune. To appoint Effendi as a successor more of sort as a return of favour.

The fallout with Dato Adenan Satem, perhaps was personal.

Pengkhianat kini dalang percaturan politik Sarawak
Tulisan Hakim Bujang

[...] Selama ini, Taib memang memberi keutamaan kepada naib presiden PBB, Datuk Seri Adenan Satem. Adenan ialah seorang yang bijak. Dia tidak gopoh, dan sebagai pulangan dia mendapat sokongan padu Taib.

Tetapi kini, Adenan kesuntukan masa. Dia tidak mampu lagi menunggu, jika tidak, dia akan ketinggalan dalam menempatkan dirinya dalam peta politik Sarawak. Taib yang sebelum ini sudah nampak bersedia melepaskan kuasa terpaksa menangguhkannya bagi menyelesaikan masalah perniagaan keluarganya.

Mereka yang mengikuti perkembangan perniagaan keluarga Taib akan tahu keadaan ini. Taib sedang cuba sedaya upaya untuk mendapatkan semula projek Bakun. Dia terpaksa menjelaskan hutang bank RHB. Dia juga perlu memastikan semuanya berjalan lancar bagi CMS dan juga Naim Cendera.

Taib tidak boleh melepaskan kerusi Ketua Menteri, bukan hari ini, esok atau bertahun lagi. Dia perlu memastikan jawatan Ketua Menteri dikekalkan dalam keluarganya. Pakciknya Tun Abdul Rahman Yaakub telah melakukannya dengan memberikan jawatan tersebut kepada Taib pada tahun 1981.[...]

Asked whether he could call Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dato Sri Effendi Norwawi back to Sarawak, he said: “Effendi is now needed by the Prime Minister and I leave it to Effendi to decide on his future, and come to discuss with me when the Prime Minister no longer requires him.”

A future chief minister is expected to come from this slate of younger leaders “who would be guided by their seniors” acting as mentors, said Taib in his closing press conference after the PBB triennial general assembly.

Datuk Seri Adenan Satem, who had perhaps hoped too much to be chief minister and finally gave up in frustration, and possibly Datuk Seri Effendi Norwawi, who has had to contend with some rather well-publicised personal problems recently.

Effendi at 60, may no longer have age on his side. Nevertheless, he presents a good image, noted his friends in the PBB.

Sarawak business circles are still reluctant to write off Effendi, who for far too long was Taib’s favourite and a trusted Melanau.

For now, delegates to the triennial general assembly held at Miri readily turn to party treasurer Datuk Seri Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, the incoming senior vice-president, as the man to watch. Coming from a humble family background, Awang Tengah has suddenly found himself moving in circles where power and money are a heady mix and where he has had to exercise the greatest self-discipline to stay on course.

Well, time will tell whether he (Taib) going to religuish his post as Chief Minister any sooner. It is a well known secret that he proclaimed himself as a defacto Sultan of Sarawak, with the title 'Pehin Sri'.

Wish you the best of health, Pehin Sri.

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