(This story was first published by Free Malaysia Today and is updated and published for the readers of The Broken Shield).
SEBUYAU: Iban natives of five longhouses held a peaceful demonstration in front of Sebuyau District Office in protest against the licensing of their ‘pulau galau’ (communal forest).
About 250 of them including nine Tuai Rumah (longhouse chiefs) were carrying banners and placards while their representatives were meeting with officials of Sarawak Forest Department, Sarawak Forest Corporation, Land and Survey and Quarry Concrete Holding to settle the dispute over three pieces of forest.
A group of Police personnel was present but did not take any action.
The natives claim that the 3,305 hectares of forest between Sungai Sebangan and Sungai Sebuyau are their communal forest and part of their native customary rights land.
It is also a water catchment area supplying water to Sebangan Bazaar and surrounding villages.
But the Forest Department has given the Quarry Concrete Holding a licence to log timbers from the area where some of the rare species of timber are found.
In the meeting which was presided over by Sarawak Administrative Officer Abdul Rahman, the natives were represented by Numpang Suntai, a retired Shell senior officer and Nicholas Mujah, a local activist.
Mujah, who is also Secretary General of Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA), said that the Forest and Land and Survey officials demanded that the natives must provide proofs that the forest is their communal forest.
He said the natives will file their claim with affidavits during their next meeting this time with officials of the Land and Survey Department in Kota Samarahan on 14 July.
He said the timber company was told not to carry out its operations until the dispute is settled.
Mujah praised the Police personnel for their neutrality in the dispute.
Last week the natives invaded the campsite and confiscated keys of the company’s five bulldozers, two excavators and five lorries and handed them to the Police for safe-keeping.