Monday, July 7

NCR land: The Ibans' greatest dilemma

(Click picture to enlarge)

Nowadays, it is not uncommon for Native Customary Rights (NCR) land owners to take the law into their own hands when Police fail to act on their complaints that certain companies have encroached or trespassed into their land. They have lodged reports, not once, but a number of times. And their reports have fallen on deaf ears.

So when the Police and the authorities fail to take action, what are they supposed to do? Do they have any alternative? Certainly no. The only way to make known their grouses or complaints to the outside world is to take the law into their own hands. They put up barricades and burn the company’s machinery. The company then lodges a report to the Police and almost immediately the Police come and arrest those “culprits” giving the impression that they are working for the company. The mass media then come and write their reports.

We have heard over TV and radio and read over the newspapers of NCR land owners being arrested in Lundu, Serian, Sri Aman, Niah, Bintulu, Miri, Sibu, Mukah and Julau for defending their land. And the latest arrests were made by Police on 26 June 2008 at Simunjan where Tuai Rumah Jayuh and three of his followers from Kpg. Sg. Raya were detained for allegedly putting up barricades and burning the company’s machinery at Paya Belebak, Simunjan, a stretch of land between Keniong and Temiang. (Read reports about the arrest here >>

Police used tear gas to disperse some 300 Ibans from several longhouses in the area who had gathered at the barricades. By a twist of luck, the tear gas which was fired towards the crowd turned against the Police personnel themselves who ran helter-skelter.

The villagers claim that some 10,000 ha of land are their NCR land which they have planted with fruit trees, pepper, cocoa and other cash crops and have been toiling the land for generations. Suddenly last year the BN government sold the land to the plantation company from Sibu (after paying millions of ringgit worth of premium). Armed with a Provisional Lease (PL), the company comes along and destroys their fruit trees and whatever is on the land.

I believe that our family has also a piece of land being taken by the company. Our great grandfather Rabong migrated to Ulu Simunjan some time in 1850 from Temiang Undup under the Brooke Internal Migration Policy (IMP). Under this policy, many Ibans from Lemanak and Skrang migrated to Kanowit, Kapit, Baram, Bintulu and much later to Limbang.

Rabong and his followers first settled at Kpg. Sematong Panjai a.k.a. Semalatong and gradually moved and spread to other areas such as Kg. Gayau, Kpg. Munggu Ai, Kpg. Keniong, Kpg. Kepayang and Kpg. Temiang. The writer is the fourth generation of the Rabong family who has settled in Ulu Simunjan.

Land is life to the Ibans (I cannot speak for other races) and as a result you often hear Ibans fight for and go to jail for their land. Land to them is like water to fish. Take away the water, the fish will die. And take away their land, the Ibans will not survive.

* It is my argument that the opening of NCR land, especially under the present system, is going to have greater impacts on the livelihood of the rural people. When the land is being taken away, where will they plant their paddy, fruit trees, rubber trees, pepper and other cash crops? Where will they fish as most rivers are polluted and fish have depleted due to chemical pollutants? Where will they look for paku-tubu (ferns and bamboo shoots) and other wild vegetables and fruits when all the land has been cleared for oil palm plantations?

No doubt some will benefit from bonuses and dividends, but the majority will adversely be affected especially when they become labourers on their own land for mere RM8 to RM15 per day. The health and the education of their children will also be affected. It will not be surprising therefore to see that in the next five, 10 or 15 or 20 years from now the rate of poverty in Sarawak instead of decreasing will be increasing.

Little doubt that the oil palm companies are transforming the rural areas into growth centres and economic hubs, but for the rural people these areas will become a living hell for them. Those who cannot stand this hell will migrate to urban centres hoping to find greener pastures. As they do not have the skills to compete in the highly sophisticated society, their livelihood will be like jumping from the frying pan to the fire itself. More social problems are being created in the towns – crimes, gamblings, prostitution, drugs etc. It will not be surprising to see one day that the Ibans find themselves living under the bridges as can be seen in some Asian cities. Already some Ibans have become scavengers looking for food among the dust bins.

* Source: Volume two of The Broken Shield – The Dayak Dilemma
Further readings:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

tired with this issue and fedup as none dayak ybs dare to defend his people (no her as there is no dayak woman yb)

no matter what had happened, during election after given rm40 (example) dayak voters will end up voting for the gov...their next 5years life only worth cheap