Monday, 12 November 2007

Native group seeks help to stop logging giant

Native group seeks help to stop logging giant

- Tony ThienNov 10, 07 4:29pm

The Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) has called for pressure to be exerted on the state government to stop global logging giant Rimbunan Hijau from “discriminating, robbing and depriving the indigenous people of the natives’ customary land rights.”

In a worldwide appeal sent via email, the local NGO concerned with native land rights alleged that Rimbunan has been “vandalising, discriminating and displacing local natives in the Balleh Basin in Kapit Division in central Sarawak.” “This giant company had been carrying out logging activities even on native people’s land for nearly half a decade,” it said, adding that this has not been noticed as the Balleh Basin is an isolated area.

It specifically sought the help of the federal government and all concerned parties and sympathisers around the world to pressure the state government to act on Rimbunan. Sadia said Rimbunan had been emboldened by a Sibu High Court decision on Nov 1, 2007 granting it an injunction to stop local natives from stopping the company to pass through their NCR land. However, the local peoples are still in high spirits defending their land, according to the Sadia appeal.

“They are very determined, even willing to go against the injunction order and face whatever consequences that may come.” The local natives said “this is the only land given by Almighty God to their ancestors and to be passed to among themselves and only to be kept for their grandchildren and their future siblings.”

Sadia said it was concerned about the local peoples’ safety because of the court's decision and the situation up there, likewise the unforeseen and the unpredictable circumstances in the coming days to come.

“It did not elaborate on this, but this seems to be a warning there may be serious fights or troubles on the ground between the company workers and the native landowners unless the authorities intervene immediately and resolve the issues.

Using penghulu to scare locals. In another district of Simunjan of Samarahan Division Sarawak, the Sadia statement claimed that Rimbunan also started bulldozing and destroying native land with planted rubber and nurseries for oil palm “The company is said to use the local chief, the penghulu, to frighten the local natives.

There are increasing police reports being made by the local communities on the encroachment of NCR land by outsiders. Many villagers like Kampung Temiang, Kampung Keniong, Kampung Tebuan, Kampung Sungai Lingkau, Kampung Sengkalan, have already approached their lawyers to file legal suits against the company.

Besides pursuing legal action, the local communities have also hinted of their intention to set up blockades to stop the company from further destroying their crops, Sadia said. Sadia called on all concerned people, both within and outside the country, to direct their appeal on behalf of the affected local natives in their fight to protect their land rights against the company to Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.