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Protesting landowners camp-out at state office

 | May 16, 2012

Sixty-five native landowners are demanding that the government rescind provisional leases (PLs) issued against their lands, to private companies.

KUCHING: Native landowners from several longhouses in Balai Ringin continued with their protest for the third day running by camping at the Land and Survey headquarters carpark here in Kuching.

Spokesman for the native landowners Augustine Bagat said the community won’t budge until their problem is solved.

“We will continue to protest even until Gawai Dayak on June 1 as long as the Director of Lands and Surveys does not make any decision on our native customary rights (NCR) land which the department leased to three companies.

“We want to show we are very serious,” Bagat said.

Their protest by camping at the car park has attracted the attention of both the Opposition and the Barisan leaders.

A concerned Balai Ringin assemblyman Snowdan Lawan said the campers were his voters and he was “very concerned with their welfare.”

“I am prepared to mediate between the native landowners and the Land and Survey Department,” he said.

Meanwhile Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen who met with the protesters said that he would raise the matter in the current sitting of the Dewan Undangan Negeri.

“The delaying tactics by the Land and Survey is not helping the natives.

“This is the time when the people are standing up for their rights that the government has taken away their land. They are going to stay here until the problem is resolved.

“We call on all those who face similar problems to come and visit them in order to show solidarity with them,” said Chong, who is also Sarawak DAP secretary.

‘Policy change needed’

He said that this is not the only group that has suffered. Throughout Sarawak there are hundreds of thousands of natives whose lands have been taken away from them.

“This is very unfair on the part of the state government which only turns a blind eye to their problem.

“Actually the government is working in cohorts to take away NCR lands from the natives,’ he said, pointing out that the problems are created by the system.

Chong said only through a change of policy could the problem be resolved.

The natives first brought their case to the Director of Lands and Surveys in January this year asking him to cancel the provisional leases on their land.

On March 17, the same group again tried to meet the director. The director refused to talk to them. Instead he sent a junior officer to deal with them.

Earlier on May 14, the group had tried (for the third time) to see the director. Again the director refused to meet them. A junior officer was sent to talk to them saying that their problems are yet to be solved.

Unhappy and angry the 65 natives – men and women – refused to go home and made their camps in the car park in front of the Land and Survey headquarters to show their protest.

But in the evening, only 30 protesters camped at the car park while the rest went home.

They were, however, relieved by another group in the morning.

“While one group of 30 people goes home, another group of 30 comes in to replace them. We will eat and sleep in the camps.

“We will do it (the protest) for the next few days or even until Gawai Dayak on June 1. This is to show how serious we are,” said Bagat.

Lands bulldozed, farms destroyed

According to Bagat, three companies – Memaju Jaya, United team trade and Tetangga Arkab – were given the PLs to plant oil palm in their NCR land.

One of the companies is allegedly owned by the former Kedup assemblyman, Frederick Bayoi Manggie.

His company is said to have been awarded 5,500 acres of land, the bulk of it is NCR land. The native landowners alleged that their land was part of a deal for Manggie to step down as elected representative.

His place was taken over by Martin Ben.

“Our lands have been bulldozed and fruit trees, rubber gardens and farms destroyed,” said Bagat, adding that the government had refused to talk with them.


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