Land rights dispute in UNESCO World Heritage site
By Tony Thien, Malaysiakini
The Berawan, a sub-tribe of the Orang Ulu community, have been distributing pamphlets to park visitors since April 20.
The pamphlet produced by Berawan activist Willia Kajan describes the “robbery” of Berawan’s land near the park, which is officially recognised as a world heritage site by Unesco.
Kajan explained that the Berawans consider the land as a birthright and a source of survival, particularly in the area of Kampung Long Terawan, Baram which is located next to the Tutoh River.
“Even before the Brooke administration (1841-1946) in Sarawak, our ancestors already settled, occupied and used our ancestral land around the Melinau River near the national park.
“As their descendants and in accordance with our customs, we have inherited our ancestral land from our ancestors,” he pointed out.
According to Kajan, the Land and Survey Department issued a provisional lease over the Berawan land to a company, Borsarmulu Resort Sdn Bhd, in 1993.
“We just discovered that in 2004, again without our knowledge, the department converted the said provisional lease issue over our ancestral land into a full lease. This arbitrary act of the department has deprived us of our said ancestral land,” he added.
Linked to CM
“We, therefore, make this very urgent appeal to all of you to help us to stop this daylight robbery of our ancestral land,” he said, and hoped that the message to tourist would bring their plight onto a global scale.
“Help us by sending and making peaceful protest and objection in any way you can to the Malaysian and Sarawak authorities and demand that our said ancestral land be excluded from the lease to Borsarmulu Resort Sdn.Bhd.
A check revealed that the shareholders and directors of Borsarmulu Resort Sdn Bhd are individuals linked to Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, Malaysia’s longest serving chief minister.
Among them was Raziah @ Rodiah Mahmud, Taib’s younger sister. Incidently, Taib is also the state’s minister of planning and resource management.
Previously, the intention of the state government to gazette parks such as the Mount Mulu National Park, which include parts of Berawan’s ancestral land, was to protect wildlife and animals.
Kajan lamented that in the process of gazetting the park, the land rights of the Berawans were ignored.
“It seems wild animals are better treated and protected than us Berawans by the Sarawak government,” he said.
(5 May 2008)