KUCHING: Native landowners’ fight through the Court against the state BN government’s land-grabbing policy is yet another victory when Kuching High Court on 29 March 2011 agreed with the plaintiffs that they have their customary rights over Bukit Bediri Forest Reserve and the
“The victory against the state BN government is yet another evidence of state government’s land-grabbing policy,” said Baru Bian, Chairman of Sarawak PKR, when he commented on the court case.
“Remember, we have been releasing evidence of land-grabbing by the state government. This is the fourth such evidence, and we will release more as we are approaching the polling day,” he said, adding that the government continues to deny that it is grabbing land from the natives.
“But we have proofs that the government is taking away people’s land and giving such land to their own cronies,” he told the Press.
Meanwhile, Judicial Commissioner Rhodzariah Bte Bujang declared that the plaintiffs, Nicholas Mujah, of Kampung Ensika, Sebangan, Lai Anak Nyambong, Kampung Entanggor, Sebangan, and Pili Anak Mit, of Kampung Tungkah Dayak, Sebangan and all other proprietors, occupiers, holders and claimants have inherited native customary rights over the Bukit Bediri Forest Reserve and the Stika Forest.
Mujah, Lai and Pili have on behalf of themselves and natives of the three villages have sued Hock Tong Hin Sawmill Co. Bhd, of
The director of forests, Sarawak, the superintendent of lands and surveys, Samarahan Division and the state government of
The plaintiffs said their land consists of their NCR land or territorial domain locally referred to as ‘Pemakai Menua’ or ‘Pulau Galau’ and ‘temuda’ created before 1 January 1958, which was eventually gazetted by the state government as a communal forest for seven kampungs or villages namely Kampung Entanggor, Kampung Ensika, Kampung Stika, Kampung Sekitong, Kampung Sungai Lumut, Kampung Sungai Arus and Kampung Tungkah Dayak.
Under gazette notification No. 760 in 1959, the plaintiffs’ ancestors under the leadership of Penghulu Birong, Tuai Rumah Janta, Tuai Rumah Ranggu, Tuai Rumah Anggat, Tuai Rumah Apau, Tuai Rumah Jap and Tuai Rumah Mail were allowed to extract timber and or collect jungle produce from the said land.
On or about January 2006, the natives discovered that the Hock Tong Hin Sawmill and Roundtree Timber Sdn Bhd and their employers and workers had been found to have been trespassing the said land by building a railway track to carry out logging activities over a part of the land causing serious damages to its environments, losing of timber and polluting its river systems.
Some time in February 2006 a complaint was lodged with the District Officer, Simunjan on the encroachment of a logging activity within the said land but the officer advised the plaintiffs to make a report with Sarawak Forestry Corporation.
Thereafter a report was made at the later office at Hock Lee Centre, Kuching, but no action was taken, and when a meeting between the landowners and the representatives of the two companies failed, a blockade was erected at Bukit Bediri on September 14, 2006 to stop the felling and extracting of timber by the two companies and to stop them from causing more damages to the said land or forest and its environment.
As the result of the felling and extraction of timber, the rights to livelihood of the natives have been and continue to be seriously impaired by the acts and the provision of the law.
In their statement of claim, the natives further aver that the impairing of their rights to livelihood by the acts and the provisions of the law is unjust, unfair and unreasonable, destructive of their economic, cultural and social system for their existence and therefore not in accordance with the law.
The natives also further claim that they have been deprived of their sources of food, fish, medicine, wildlife and other forest produce which they need and are dependent upon for their daily sustenance. They have also been deprived of their sources of income from their land, fruit trees and other essential trees and crops.
In her ruling, the judge declared that the natives have the customary rights over the said land at Bukit Bediri Forest Reserve and the
She said the construction of the rail line across these two forests constitutes an encroachment and a trespass of the land.
“The defendants are jointly and severally liable to pay damages to be assessed by the Deputy Registrar, to the plaintiffs (except those from Kampung Stika) for the said trespass,” the judge ordered.
Commenting on their victory, Mujah said that the case should be a good lesson to the people especially Tuai Rumah and Penghulu that they cannot sell their customary rights over land without the consensus of the people.
“Look at the people from Kampung Stika who sold their rights ranging from RM30.00 per family to RM200 per family to the companies,” he said.
“Although the people of Stika also share the joy of victory with us, nevertheless they do not receive any compensation whatsoever from the damaged land, the destruction of their fruit trees and crops.
“This is clearly stated by the judge,” Mujah added, pointing out that this is the lesson that all longhouse chiefs and the natives must remember.
“They are penny wise pound foolish,” he added.