Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sarawak Ibans trials

Logging woes: Ibans seek supernatural help

By Joseph Tawie

SEBUYAU: The native Ibans of nine longhouses in Sebangan and Sebuyau have resorted to performing a traditional “miring” ceremony which involved summoning their “petara” (gods) and the spirit of their ancestors to help them resolve their dispute with the Quality Concrete logging company over their communal forest. But the company which received its licence from the Sarawak Forest Corporation to log timbers in the area thinks it is a virgin jungle not owned by anyone.

The 3,305 hectares is home to many rare species of timber, flora and fauna. It is also the primary source of drinking water for this native community.

“Today we held a ‘miring’ ceremony and called upon our ‘petara’ and the spirits of our great grandfathers to cast a spell on those who cross the line of blockade.

“We have to do this as a last resort after our meeting with the company and authorities failed to stop them from going into our sacred forest,” said Nicholas Mujah, a leader from the nine longhouses.

“Anyone who dares pass through the line of the blockade will suffer the consequences either by the spirits or by us,” he warned.

'We can be violent'

The Ibans mounted a blockade yesterday to stop Quality Concrete Holdings' workers from entering the area.

“It was just like a ‘cat and mouse’ game when the natives chased after the loggers who were using eight tractors to construct roads to the forest.

“Today is the second day running that we have mounted the blockade,” said Mujah who is also the secretary-general of the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association.

He said for the past four days the company had been carrying out activities such as making camps and constructing rails or roads into the forested area and in the process many of their rubber and fruit trees have been destroyed.

“On July 14, we submitted evidence to the Land and Survey Department to prove that the disputed area belongs to us,” said Mujah, warning that they might take the law into their own hands if the authorities failed to stop the company.

“We will continue our blockade. And we do mean business. Up to now we have been very tolerant. But if they persist we can also be very violent,” he said.

He said if anything should happen, the villagers should not be blamed as they had already informed the police, the district officer, the Land Survey Department and the Sarawak Forest Corporation.

Meanwhile, it is understood that the Sarawak Forest Corporation had temporarily suspended the company’s licence until further notice.

Mujah said that the temporary suspension of the licence could be due to the current change in the state government’s policy on native customary rights (NCR) land as announced by Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.

The state government has started to recognise NCR land which is to be surveyed and to be gazetted as native communal reserve, said Mujah.

“In a way it is our victory, but we cannot celebrate yet. We are watching the development very closely,” said Numpang Anak Suntai, another leader of the group.

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