Monday, May 9, 2011

Sarawak: Furious villagers torch logging camps, machinery

Furious villagers torch logging camps, machinery

Joseph Tawie
| May 9, 2011

Highly emotional villagers outnumbered Serian police who failed to act on numerous complaints lodged by Bidayuh villagers against a timber company.

KUCHING: About 500 villagers from 10 Bidayuh villages burnt seven heavy machineries, four lorries and five logging camps after their elected representative and state minister Michael Manyin and the police failed to look into their complaints.

The value of the destroyed properties is believed to be worth several millions of ringgit.

One of the village leaders, who did not want to be identified, said that they had to take the law into their own hands as Manyin and the authorities had failed to safeguard their interests.

They had failed to stop the logging activities and the villagers could not tolerate it any more.

“We have made several reports to the authorities and yet the logging activities still continue,” he said, pointing out that their crops, fruit trees and their land have been destroyed.

He also said that they had warned the workers to stop the logging activities, but they simply ignored their warning.

“We gave them ample time, and when they failed to adhere to our warning, we have to take action.

“We have to burn down their camps and machinery. We really mean busisness,” he said.

Serian police, who arrived at the scene yesterday, could not do anything as they were outnumbered in the face of emotional and angry villagers.

Serian police chief ASP Awangku Ahmaddin Awang Wang who was also present at the scene was not willing to comment.

It is not certain if anyone has been arrested.

‘Manyin is lying’

Last month the villagers met Manyin and also lodged a number of police reports against a certain timber company which allegedly encroached into their native customary rights land.

Instead of peacefully settling the issue, Manyin who is Tebedu assemblyman, had arrogantly dismissed it.

He reportedly said that the problem arose because the villagers had initially rejected their land being used for road construction.

According to Manyin, when the company offered them lucrative compensation, the villagers agreed and the only ‘trouble makers’ were the ones whose land was not affected.

He said: “They were not part of the group that received RM40 per square metre as compensation for affected land to be used to build the timber road. This group demonstrated by blocking the access road.

“They also destroyed a timber bridge,” he said.

But Manyin’s statement was hotly disputed by Bisa Duda, a spokesman of the villagers who demanded that Manyin apologise to them.

Duda said the villagers were not offered a ‘lucrative’ compensation and the allegation was considered by the villagers as “insulting and embarrassing”.

He added the villagers were not interested in the compensation as they do not want the company to encroach into their NCR land.

“We are not after the money. We do not want the company to use our land and the jungle in our area as these are our ancestral properties,” Duda said.

He accused Manyin of telling lies as the villagers never agreed to allow their land to be used for the construction of the timber road.

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