Saturday, 7 November 2009

Dispute over land reaches boiling point

Saturday November 7, 2009


MIRI: A standoff between a group of more than 500 Kenyah minority natives and an oil-palm giant over a land dispute in Long Koyan settlement in Belaga district in central Sarawak has reached boiling point.

The oil-palm company, a subsidiary of a Miri-based land development consortium, bulldozed its way into a plot of land to open up an access road into areas earmarked for oil-palm plantation.

The natives claimed that the area targeted for clearing was their native customary rights (NCR) land, inherited from their ancestors.

The company claimed that it has been given the concession right by the State Land and Survey Department to develop the land.

Over the past two days, workers from the company had ploughed their way through despite desperate attempts by the villagers to stop them.

The natives have lodged police reports against the workers for trespassing on their farms, but they claim that the police are siding with the company and helping to provide security to the workers.

Long Koyan chief Tuai Rumah Nyalang Tahe had to seek help from the Borneo Resources Institute, a community-rights group.

The institute’s executive director Mark Bujang yesterday said the Long Koyan natives were very angry with the company for infringing into their land.

“The company workers had started clearing works despite appeals from the affected villagers.They have lodged numerous police reports, but no action has been taken,” he said.

Bujang said Tahe had also claimed to have been given the runaround by the police.

“Tahe was arrested on July 21 this year when he tried to stop the company’s workers from entering his village. He took away the keys from an excavator and the police arrested him for stealing although he had explained that he was merely trying to stop the bulldozing of his people’s land,” said Bujang.

Bujang urged the police and the state authorities to help the Long Koyan people resolve the matter to prevent the situation from turning into a physical confrontation.