Tuesday, December 7

Senseless Arrests Reign in Sarawak

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3rd Dec 2010

Senseless Arrests Reign in Sarawak

Sahabat Alam Malaysia is gravely concerned over the recent arrest, four-day remand and the subsequent charge under Section 307(1) of the Penal Code of an Iban Mr. Liam Rengga from Rumah Kilat in Sungai Senga, Pandan-Sebauh, Bintulu on Nov 23, 2010. We indeed have cause for serious concern over this latest arrest of a Sarawak indigenous community activist, as Section 307(1) carries the very serious charge of attempted murder. It carries a sentence of between 10 and 20 years jail, and a fine.

The arrest of Mr. Liam, 41, took place during the late afternoon of Nov 17, 2010 at his farm hut in Ulu Sungai Seplai which also saw his traditional parang, or the 'Duku Latuk', used for work on his farm, seized by the police. His arrest is believed to be connected to a police report made against him by a personnel of an oil palm plantation company, whose operations are said to have encroached into Mr. Liam’s traditional village territory.

In his police report lodged after his release on Nov 23, 2010, Mr. Liam alleged that a day prior to his arrest, he had bumped into two men whom he believed were agents of an oil palm company whilst putting up a no-entry signboard to outsiders on his land. Mr. Liam claimed to have spoken to the men on the communal hunting prohibition in the area upon catching sight of a shotgun in the men’s vehicles before being told off by the latter to not cause a ruckus (“lu jangan buat hal”).

According to Mr. Liam, the initiative to put up the signboard was primarily meant to deter outsiders from hunting in his village territory as well as for security reasons.

Mr. Liam has been fighting for the village native customary land that was encroached by the plantation company without the people’s consent. As a matter of fact, he and others are in the process of filing a legal suit against the company. Led by him, the Rumah Kilat community has set up a residents association last year, the Sungai Senga Residents’ Association (SSRA) in order to better protect their collective interests in this regard.

Since the association was registered on July 20, 2010, regular campaign work to defend their native land rights has been carried out. They include informing the company and government authorities in an official letter dated Aug 31, 2010 of the environmental pollution and health of his village and villagers, respectively, being affected by water pollution from the plantation. SSRA also issued a warning letter to the company on Oct 24, 2010, urging its workers to refrain from using the private road that runs through his village native customary land.
On Sept 15, 2010 letters on SSRA’s objectives and functions were sent to the plantation company and several government departments in Bintulu including the District Office, Department of Land and Survey, Health Department, Forestry Department and the Police. The letter also included a copy of their SSRA registration with the Registrar of Societies, and Sungai Senga’s boundary map.

Mr. Liam’s plight brings to mind the spate of criminal charges and detention of an almost similar nature that over the years have befallen other indigenous persons in Sarawak engaged in land rights defence of their traditional territories against logging or plantation corporations in the state.

One such case is the charge against Penan villagers from Long Lunyim, Mr. Semali Sait and his father Mr. Sait Kiling, who were detained for alleged criminal intimidation under Section 506 of the Penal Code on Sept 4, 2003. A year later following numerous court adjournments, the charge against them was withdrawn but the experience proved to be a highly intimidating one for the two villagers.

Given the existence of such a trend, we fear that Mr. Liam may experience a similar injustice like that of Mr. Semali Sait and Mr. Sait Kiling, where credible evidence failed to be adduced by the state during the trial, leading to the eventual withdrawal of the charges.

In mid-October this year, seven community leaders in Sebuyau, Simunjan including NGO Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) secretary-general Mr Nicholas Mujah were arrested based on allegations of arson to a timber camp. Although they were eventually released on Oct 25, 2010, the allegations were unjust particularly where evidence was unsubstantiated. These arrests similar to most detentions of indigenous people speak of harassment and intimidation on NCR landowners to halt the campaign to protect their rights to life and land.

Therefore, we are indeed very concerned that the arrest and charge may possibly be undertaken in order to intimidate and silence Mr. Liam. He is due to appear in court on Jan 6, 2011 and is currently out on bail. He has been asked to report himself to the Bintulu Police Station every first week of the month.

Mr. Liam categorically denied that he and his people had ever engaged in criminal behaviour in their fight to defend their traditional territories. He finds the charge of attempted murder extremely outrageous, illogical and way out of line – it certainly has the effect of tarnishing his good name, although he vows not to let his current predicament affect the community land rights struggle.

“I will continue championing our rights. If anything, I am more spirited now than I was before and will fight till the end,” he said. He added that he was prepared for an assault because of the hostility between his villagers and the company workers resulting from the dissatisfaction over the plantation licence and its occupation over their land.

Taking into account all of the above, we therefore strongly urge that the charge against Mr. Liam, who is the sole breadwinner of his family, be dropped if the state is unable to gather concrete and comprehensive evidence.

We also call the Sarawak State Government to affirm the native customary rights of the Rumah Kilat community and to positively engage them by providing meaningful responses to their grievances, as communicated in the letters mentioned above.

Finally, we strongly urge the authorities to stop the intimidation and persecution of native leaders who are fighting for their lawful rights.

S.M. Mohamed Idris


retired cop said...

Charge against Mr. Liam Rengga for attempt to murder under section 307(l) of the Penal Code. The prosecution has to adduce the following evidence to prove the prima facie case against him;-

1. that the death of a human being was attempted;

2. that such death was attempted to be caused,or in consequence of, the act of the accused;

3. that such act was done with the intention of causing death, or that it was done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the accused knew to be likely to cause death, or was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death,

4. that the accused attempted to cause such death by doing an act known to him to be so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death, or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, the accused having no excuse for incurring the risk of causing such death or injury.

apai irau said...

Yes,arrest and detention is the most powerful tool to silence descents.Taib's regime has been using this scare strategy since the 80's.Now,we hope that Masing will walk his talk,do something to help the natives who are defending their NCR land,after all Masing now realized the common law status of the NCR land.As for Jabu and Mawan,speak up too,otherwise don,t ever claim yourselves as the Iban leaders.

Anonymous said...

Don't blame Taib. Blame these 3 running dogs,Jabu, Masing and Mawan. who are elected to protected the natives but turn their back.

Anonymous said...

Just another classic 'David v Goliath' story happening to the humble rural folks where might is always right. Reminds me of the ill-fated incident a few years back when a reputable Timber company engaged some samseng to bully the longhouse folks and got themselves killed when the latter stood up for their rights. The affected locals have 2 options. They can stay to be meek and disunited just for some 'angpow' and free beer handed out by these timber/plantation villians with this cheap trick. Or they can stand up to be counted and remain the last men standing to defend their diginity, lands and generations. The choice is theirs to make.

Anonymous said...

It is the Police style in these modern days.
Legally it is tantamount to abuse of unlimited power of the Police. Legally investigation should be conducted first. It is not a case arrest first investigation later. No other enforcement body ever do their job like the Police do. This is stark abusive of power. JAngan la itu macam what if that happen to your family one day?
The Polic can be held for illegal detention for that.

KK Lau said...

Sarawakians must be made aware of such things right at their doorsteps. I believe that if the Umno-led government and MACC do nothing, the people of Sarawak would revolt and vote against them (BN), but it is essential to keep highlighting such abuses continuously to remind Sarawakians that they are being robbed left, right and centre by the Taib family and their cronies with the connivance of the peninsular Umnoputras who treat them as ‘fixed deposit’ vote banks to hold onto political power.

YES, Sarawakians must punish UMNO led BN and vote out every BN stogges in all the 71 state seats. Vote for new government to empower the rakyat and the rural poor. Vote for Pakatan! Vote ouT PBB, SPDP, PRS and SUPP. Kick them all out! We are no longer interested in Najib’s graft sandiwara.