As the situation in Murum, Baram, Melikin, Sungai Asap and other areas of Sarawak heat up, Sarawak Report has become aware of yet another dissatisfied indigenous community fighting for their rights against the state government.
More than 20 Bidayuh villages in the Bukar area in Serian, Sarawak, are rightly furious over what they claim to be a private company encroaching on their sacred landmark Mount Sadung.
The unknown company involved is alleged to have been issued a licence to extract timber on the mountain located along the Baki-Riih road.
During an emergency meeting last Friday, 26 village heads and community leaders unanimously expressed their grievances as to the lack of respect shown upon their ancestral homeland.
Village spokesperson Temenggong Robert Sulis Ridu stated:
“All the village chiefs expressed their unhappiness over the lack of respect to their ancestral land which they have preserved all these while. The Bidayuh Bukar community would like to appeal to the relevant authorities to withdraw the (timber) licence with immediate effect,”
“The mountain is a rich source of biodiversity and once lost it will be difficult to replace. Communal orchards shared by all the villages in the area such as durian orchards, rubber gardens and land for subsistence farming, are among sources of income for people in the area,”
The spokesman also mentioned that Article 31 of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) states that the “indigenous people have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of flora and fauna, oral traditions, sports and games”.
The spokesman said under the said article “Governments will respect and protect the right of indigenous peoples to develop and protect their lands, water bodies and other natural resources. No dangerous materials should be placed on indigenous peoples’ lands without their free, prior and informed consent. Governments will protect the health of indigenous peoples who are affected by dangerous materials placed on their land.
Article 8 Clause 2 of UNDRIP also states that… “States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities; any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;” Sulis also said the reasons which were voiced during the meeting for the continued preservation of the area were as follows: that Darud Sadung was their former ‘mawang’ or ancestral settlements of Bidayuh Bukar and it is considered a sacred and revered mountain by people of the Bukar origin “On top of that, it is the water catchment and sources of water supply as it feeds the numerous rivers and streams flowing through the entire area.”
Sarawak Report congratulates the villagers for knowing their rights as enshrined under the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The Bukar Bidayuh community will hold a gathering in Kampong Lanchang Sabai this Sunday (17/11/13) in a show of solidarity and to brief the community about the issue as well as to discuss the next course of action.
The community is appealing to relevant authorities to have the licence withdrawn with immediate effect.