PRESS STATEMENT – 8 villagers arrested & assaulted by police for allegedly stealing oil palm from a company which is encroaching on NCR lands
3rd November 2013,
MIRI – A police contingent from Batu Niah, Miri and Kuching consisting of the General Operations Force (GOF), traffic and ordinary officers went down to the Sungai Sebatu, Suai last Friday, 1 November 2013 and arrested 8 Iban villagers of Rumah Gansor, Rumah Tarang and Rumah Ansang for allegedly stealing oil palm fruit bunches from Sacheiw Plantation Sdn. Bhd., an estate company which is operating within the native customary rights land (NCR) of these communities.
The company is accusing the villagers of being involved in a syndicate to steal oil palm fruits and intimidate the company workers in the estate.
According to Cassidy Ak Robinson Ran from Rumah Gansor, the police used excessive force to arrest the villagers by pointing their weapons to the unarmed villagers which comprised men, women and children. To add insult to injury, one of the villagers, Adrian Ak Micheal was assaulted before being arrested together with one of his sons who is nine years of age.
Besides being arrested, 11 of the villagers’ vehicles were also seized by the police and brought to the Miri Central Police Station (CPS).
Cassidy also added that in one of the vehicles, the longhouse welfare funds amounting to RM10,500 which was supposed to be deposited at a local bank in Batu Niah was missing from the vehicle when the police seized it and brought it to Miri.
The villagers from the 3 longhouses are crying foul with the way the police and the other authorities are handling this dispute which has been left unresolved since 1996.
Abang Ak Ramba from Rumah Gansor said that the land where the company is operating is within their NCR land. According to him, his people have been writing letters and held meetings with the relevant authorities since the encroachment and occupation of their NCR lands by the plantation company and have also brought the matter to the civil court but the dispute remains unresolved.
“The police treated us as if we are dangerous criminals. They came in aggressive manner and uttered harsh and insulting words and pointed their weapons towards us. We are only farmers working on our own lands and we have tried numerous times to meet and dialogue with the company but it never kept to its promises”, said Abang.
Currently, the 8 villagers are still held under remand at the Miri CPS.
Those arrested are Chaya Ak Abang, Sudin Ak Minggat, Elvister Ak Entir, Fabian Ak Jati, Robin Ak Siri, Adrian Ak Micheal and two underage boys.
The people of the 3 villages urge the police to release their fellow villagers unconditionally and for the police to do a proper and fair investigation to determine the root cause of the dispute and not to listen to the company side of the story.
They also urged the media to not paint a negative picture of the villages as being a crime syndicate without first verifying the facts of this dispute.
The villagers are calling for the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) to intervene with the view to address this dispute in anamicable manner.
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Press Release issued by:
Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (TAHABAS)