Saturday, 10 November 2007

Iban headman locked up for a night (re: palm oil)

Iban headman locked up for a night Tony ThienNov 9, 07 6:16pm

A Iban longhouse chief was arrested on Wednesday and locked up overnight in the Miri police station in connection with an alleged attack on Indonesian workers at an oil palm plantation in Niah, Sibuti in Sarawak.

Tuai Rumah Rajang ak Sengalang 43, from Kampung Wawasan was, however, released on police bail pending further police investigations into the complaints of causing hurt to the workers who had allegedly destroyed oil palm trees belonging to the Ibans.

Kuching-based NGO Sarawak Dayak Iban Association secretary-general Nicholas Mujah told Malaysiakini the arrest followed a conflict on the ground between the 46-door longhouse community with the Miri-based company Mega Jutamas which has been given a 60-year 2,145ha lease of plantation land.

The Iban is the largest indigenous group in Sarawak. Kampung Wawasan is located about 80km from Miri. “The local community claims that the lease overlaps with its native customary rights and have repeatedly objected against it, but Mega Jutamas and the Sarawak authorities failed to take the objections into account,” Mujah said.

Nov 28 court hearingRecently, the community reported that oil palm plantation workers of Indonesian origin had been found to destroy the community’s own smallholder oil palm gardens. The dispute is to be heard before a local court on Nov 28. The Ibans will be represented by Miri-based lawyer Harrison Ngau.

In support of their longhouse chief, the local community gathered at the Miri police station and were told he would be released soon.. There are reports of increasing conflicts on the ground in many lands that the Dayaks claim to be NCR land. One area where there are new blockages against logging is Sejugan-Linggah area in Julau and Sungai Julau river valley.

A 64,000 acre plantation lease has been issued to a company in which one of Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud’s sisters has a major stake, and a Sibu-based company has been given contract to remove commercial timber from the area.