Saturday, October 23, 2010

Seven arrests in Sarawak (Malaysia) over logging dispute

By Bruno Manser Fonds

We have just received the news that the Malaysian police have arrested Nicholas Mujah, the Secretary General of the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) and six Iban villagers, including the headman of Kampung Bajong in Sebuyau, Sarawak.

Nicholas Mujah was assisting the native Iban community in Sebuyau in a native customary land dispute involving a company named Quality Concrete Holdings. Quality Concrete Holdings has been in the centre of the dispute after the Forest Department gave it a licence to carry out logging activities in 3,305 hectares of forests which Ibans from six longhouses claim to be their Native Customary Rights (NCR) land. Quality Concrete Holdings are linked to the family of Sarawak's extremely corrupt Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud. Taib's sister Roziah is a director and an important shareholder of Quality Concrete Holdings.

Mark Bujang, director of the Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS) in Miri writes:

"When negotiations failed the Ibans have brought their case with the Police, the district and resident offices, the lands and surveys and the Forest department.

When all these failed, the natives since last Friday, 15th October have erected a blockade to stop the workers from the Royal Billion company encroaching into their native customary rights land.

They have also stopped a "tongkang" or barge from loading timber that has been extracted from the disputed area."

"Last Monday, 18th October a fire destroyed a block of two storey quarters occupied by timber workers, a store, six tractors, two logging trucks, a pick up and an excavator belonging to Royal Billion Sdn Bhd, a logging contractor contracted by Quality Concrete to extract timber in the area."

"Nicholas Mujah and 6 other villagers are currently being detained by the police at Simunjan Police Station. Last night 4 villagers were arrested which include a headman. They are Tuai Rumah Neli of Kpg. Bajong, Tinsi ak Bunda and 2 others. They are apparently being charged on allegation of mischief by fire.

A total of about 200 villagers gathered outside the police station in support of Nicholas Mujah and 6 other villagers that were arrested.

Lawyer, See Chee How is also at the police station."

The Bruno Manser Fund protests against this blatant case of non-respect of native rights by the local authorities and urges the Malaysian auithorities to release all arrested persons immediately and to stop all logging activities on the affected communities' lands.

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Please help us to campaign for the immediate release of the arrested forest campaigners in Sarawak.

According to our latest information, out of ten people arrested over a fire at a timber camp, seven have been released while three were remanded until Monday, Nicholas Mujah Ason, Numpang ak Suntai and Tuai Rumah Sadon ak Ason.

The villagers are saying that they were half way down the hill from the timber camp where the fire started; and Nicholas Mujah was in Pulau Bruit, more than 400 km away when the incident happened.

The local police chief's name is DSP Choo Yin Kok. Tel number : +6082 803779, Mobile : +6-019-8583016

International attention to this case could help raise pressure on the local authorities. If you have time, please give Mr. Choo a polite call and ask him for the immediate release of Nicholas, Numpang and Sadon.

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