Five Ibans arrested over oil palm dispute
The rapid extension of oil palm plantations in Sarawak entails severe social and environmental problems
By Tony Thien, Malaysiakini
Five Ibans have been arrested by the Miri police on Thursday for what is believed to be the result of their persistent protest against the activities of an oil palm company working on their native customary rights (NCR) land without their consent.
Those arrested are all longhouse residents of Kampung Wawasan in Miri.
However, police appear to have given a different reason for their arrest, and Miri-based NGO Borneo Resources Institute of Malaysia (Brimas) has also failed to obtain the true account of why the five were arrested.
The five were asked by police to go to the Batu Niah police station two days ago to have their statements recorded. However, on arrival at the station, they were brought to the Miri police station and detained.
Brimas executive director Mark Bujang revealed to Malaysiakini today the identities of the five - they are Edi anak Ingah, Angkinsig anak Chundau, Awa, Awat and the village headman Rajang anak Sengalang.
Residents of Rumah Rajang, Kampung Wawasan filed a court suit at the end of last year against a plantation company Mega Jutamas Sdn Bhd alleging enroachment into their NCR land.
According resident Amy anak Alus, the five were requested by CID officers to go down to the Batu Niah police station to have their statements recorded concerning the arrest of another resident who was arrested earlier for allegedly carrying a home-made pistol without a licence. The man has been remanded in police custody since Monday.
Amy claimed police allegation that the man named Siew owned a homemade pistol was false as she believed that the police were trying "to maliciously persecute Siew and the other because of their action on the ground against Mega Jutamas Sdn Bhd."
Mark said Brimas found out that up to late yesterday afternoon the five detained persons have yet to have their statements recorded and not s single police officer has told them the reason for their arrest and detention.
"Brimas questions the police’s motive of the detention as it lacks transparency and does not follow proper procedures of arresting a person," he added.
Prevented from entering their farms
Residents of Kampung Wawasan have been protesting the encroachment of an oil palm plantation company into their land since last year, which they claimed to have native customary rights over.
Mega Jutamas was issued a Provisional Lease on Lot 95 Sawai Land District by the Land and Survey Department for the purpose of an oil palm plantation covering an area of approximately 2,145 hectares.
The residents are protesting because the plantation company workers came in and destroyed their padi fields and also their smallholders’ oil palm gardens. The residents were also stopped by the company's security guards from entering their own farms.
According to Mark, Brimas has found out that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report done for the company stated in one of its mitigation measures that areas which are not conceded in the plantation for development should be left undisturbed and be clearly defined by proper ground surveys.
However, the company has not complied with the EIA report but proceeded to bulldoze their way through the villagers’ lands.
Last November, headman Rajang was also arrested and detained for 24 hours for allegedly attacking Indonesian workers working for the oil palm company. He denied ever attacking the workers and was later released on police bail pending further police investigations.
Brimas will continue to monitor the situation, Mark said.
(19 April 2008)