19 Aug 2012

Gangster State!

Gangster State!

This post is also available in: Iban, Malay

Yesterday we featured Sarawak’s Action Heroes, who have been standing up for their land rights against ruthless plantation companies.

The five campaigners from Melikin in Balai Ringen were arrested last week after false accusations were made against them relating to arson and assault. They were later released without charge.

The reason behind this harassment was that they have been protesting against the plantation company that has been snatching and bulldozing their ancestral Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands.

We can now bring more details of the gangster-style harassment that these folk have endured over the past year and we can also reveal that the owners of the companies that are grabbing their land are two of Taib Mahmud’s top Ministers!

What more do we need to know to understand how the Chief Minister has robbed his people and pillaged the State of Sarawak?

Grabbed and then bulldozed – what Awang Tengah and Naroden Majais’s company United Teamtrade Sdn Bhd is doing to NCR land in Melikin!

Gangster tactics – “Either you take our money or we take your land for free”!

Reporters for Sarawak Report have been interviewing the inhabitants of Melikin over the past days to learn of their problems with one of the major companies that has been operating in their area, United Teamtrade.  United Teamtrade has been granted a provisional licence for 7,300 hectares.

However, as so often is the case, it has treated this provisional licence from the Land & Survey Department as a right to take Native Customary Rights Land, instead of a right to negotiate with the real landowners.

Land right? United Teamtrade’s juicy provisional permit on NCR land in Melikin, Balai Ringen

According to the villagers, who live about 60 miles from Kuching and not far from the Indonesian border, the company has been attempting to bully them into selling the land for a laughable RM300 (£60) a hectare!

When the locals refused to give up their ancestral lands and their livelihoods and timber for less than a month’s wages they say the Company Manager bullied them with the threat:

 “Either you take the money or we’ll take it (your land) for free”

He then produced the provisional lease from the Land & Survey Department, claiming this over-ruled their ancestral rights to the land, which includes their graveyards, fruit trees and Tembawai (the former longhouse).

Up-front profit – the companies have been grabbing the valuable timber as a prelude to turning the land to profitable oil palm, destroying the jungle in the process

However, the people of Melikin have refused to be bowed and they turned to PKR’s native land rights lawyers instead.  With the help of YB See Chee How (now a member of the State Assembly) they have taken the company to court.

It was then the villagers told our reporter that the real trouble has started.  They say gangsters started to appear and threaten the neighbourhood. They blocked the road, preventing residents from accessing their farms and their livelihoods.

The on-going destruction under provisional licence in Balai Ringin – What happened to Taib’s proud boasts that he is preserving Sarawak’s Jungle, the oldest in the world?

The thugs even turned up at the longhouse with a sword and drove it violently into the ground in front of the longhouse folks as a warning of what might come. The Company Manager himself even allegedly menaced them with the warning that he has a pistol himself.

And all this while the bulldozers have been driving into their lands.

The companies tearing up the lands around Balai Ringen – many, including United Teamtrade, have links to BN political allies of Taib Mahmud

In another recent gangster-style incident another of the local leaders who had been protesting against United Teamtrade and the other companies encroaching the area had his new car torched.

Michael Lung, from Kampung Tanah Mawang, was woken to find his new RM76,000 Hilux truck burning outside his house.  He believes it was because he has been at the forefront of defending the rights of 200 affected landowners.  At the time he told reporters:

“I was wakened up early this morning by the sound of fire and went to check. I was shocked when I saw my Hilux parked near the house burning and saw someone leaving the place in a car.  It is obvious that these people were trying to intimidate me because I am one of the leaders who are defending our NCR land” [Free Malaysia Today]

What use was their BN YB Snowdon Lawan?

Melikin’s State Assemblyman, Snowdon Lawan, told them he could not support their cause, because it was “too sensitive”!

Of course, the local people’s first instinct had been to turn to the local police. They filed numerous police reports in Serian about the trespassing and destruction on their lands.

However, in a depressingly familiar scenario these were ignored.  Police in Sarawak now prefer to do the bidding of the logging and plantation companies rather than uphold the law.

So, their next recourse was to turn to their own state assemblyman for help.

This turns out to be none other than the millionaire brat-pack YB, the youthful Snowdon Lawan, whose Dad is one of Taib’s chief business cronies.

Snowdon likes fast cars and lives a very expensive jet-set lifestyle, but he has done little to improve the lives of his poverty-stricken constituents.  And in this case he was equally inactive.

In fact, the villagers said he made clear that he was too fearful to get involved in any dispute with the company United Teamtrade Sdn Bhd, because the situation was “too sensitive“!

Eventually, the villagers were forced to turn to the opposition PKR party and the native land rights lawyer See Chee How, who has taken up their case and who got the jailed activists out of the police lock-up last week.

Helpful favours from the Land & Survey Department with this provisional licence – but this is NOT a title to land. So why have they been grabbing the area?

Too sensitive?

A river destroyed and polluted by the trespassing loggers – the bathing area of Melikin is now a mud bath

This brings us to the issue of why the matter was “too sensitive” for YB Snowdon Lawan to be able to come to the help of his constituents and confront United Teamtrade?

Also, why was it “too sensitive” for him to insist that the police do their duty and restrain the activity of the violent gangsters who have been terrorising the protesters against this land-grabbing ?

A simple enquiry into ownership of United Teamtrade Sdn Bhd, provides a convincing answer to these questions and it sums up the situation that has developed across the whole of Sarawak under the 30 years of rule by BN’s Abdul Taib Mahmud.

The ultimate controller behind WFM is State Minister Naroden Majais and behind Awang Matusin lies his boss, State Planning Minister Awang Tengah!

As Sarawak Report has exposed in detail on a previous occasion, WFM Development is in fact a company controlled by none other than Naroden Majais, one of Taib’s closest inner circle, the Minister for ‘Entrepreneur Development’!

Tengah was a man of modest means before Taib adopted him as Planning Minister – he has just built this massive new mansion!

While Awang Matusin Bin Awang Drahman is the personal assistant of another of Taib’s most inner cronies and famously corrupted BN Ministers, Awang Tengah!

WFM has been involved in other major land grabs in Sarawak and the cheating of numerous other native customary land owners through joint ventures associated with the BN-backed companies Hydroflow Sdn Bhd and Indranika Sdn Bhd.

As we have already detailed, all these companies operate out of offices run by Naroden himself and the current shareholders are his clear nominees.

Naroden Majais has claimed that land-grabs are a “myth” in Sarawak.  Yet we have already further exposed how he (an ex-school teacher) is a major shareholder in Peninsular Rise Sdn Bhd one of the largest recipients of timber licences in the state.

Furthermore, Majais has form when it comes to cheating natives, with a conviction in court!  He and his wife are the sole shareholders of Nirwana Muhibbah Sdn Bhd, which robbed nearly 5,000 hectares of NCR lands from the people of Kampung Lebor in Serian and offered the locals just RM 700 for the privilege!

Politics pays? – ex-school teacher come BN YB Naroden Majais has just as an impressive a mansion?

For this Majais has been found guilty in a court of law.

So is it so very surprising that one of his other companies United Teamtrade is being accused of the very same tactics now in Balai Ringen?

Awang Tengah

Meanwhile, the Second Minister for Planning Awang Tengah has also been exposed for being every bit as greedy and grasping as Naroden Majais.

Just last week we exposed his grabbing of major state contracts in his own area of Limbang and he is widely notorious for demanding vast kickbacks in return for doing his job in granting planning permissions in the state.

After all, just look at his monstrous new house as well!

It is Awang Tengah who is currently regarded as Taib’s favourite ‘yes man’ and who is doing his business in the SCORE projects that are creating dams and misery across the state.  It is Awang Tengah that is signing deals with Hydro-Tasmania, the Australian company that sees fit to get involved in the risky business of performing ventures with politically exposed persons from Malaysia like Taib Mahmud and Hamed Sepawi.

So, is this why it is too sensitive for Snowdon Lawan to help his people, because their oppressors are  none other than two of his most senior colleagues in BN?

Taib has allowed his family and political allies to plunder and strip Sarawak for so long that as they grab at the last remaining areas belonging to native peoples they have lost all sense of what they can get away with.

The heroes of Melikin and Balai Ringin and elsewhere are starting to teach the BN YBs that their greed has finally led them too far.

No respect – the Melikin grave site is to be bulldozed over by the land-grabbers