Is the Sarawak government which is freely issuing provincial leases on NCR lands to private companies, regardless of the natives' welfare, prepared to face their wrath?
The Ibans from the 60-door longhouse of Ruman Sigan (previously known as Rumah Umpol), Ulu Niah, have resorted to performing a war ceremony known as a “sandau hari” to help confront the threat.
The “sandau hari” is scheduled for tomorrow at the longhouse.
In the old days, Ibans performed the ceremony to seek the assistance of the forest spirits before they went on head-hunting or war expeditions.
The 700 Ibans were given two weeks to move out of the more than 40-year-old longhouse, failing which their dwellings will be demolished by an oil palm company, Medan Mustika.
Medan Mustika is a subsidiary of WTK, which is allegedly owned by one of Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud’s cronies. The company allegedly also has several provisional leases to plant oil palm and licences to extract timber.
Residents from nearby longhouses who have similar problems have been asked to attend the ceremony to show their solidarity with the Ibans of Rumah Sigan.
They have also discussed the eviction notice with their lawyers Harrison Ngau and Abun Sui.
Govt not bothered with natives
Commenting on the issue, the president of Jaringan Tanah Hak Bangsa Asal, Remauld Siew, said that the Ibans of Rumah Sigan are being treated worse than animals.
“If they are going to move out, where do they go to? They cannot be left just like that and are being treated worse than animals,” he said.
He said government obviously was not be bothered with the welfare and the rights of the Ibans of the longhouse because they had issued provisional leases and sold the land to Medan Mustika.
Siew said the problem created by the state BN government is not an isolated one, because there are many other longhouses and villages which face similar threats.
Several clashes had occurred in the past between longhouse dwellers who are native customary rights (NCR) landowners and companies which either used gangsters or even police to threaten them.
The incidents date back to the 1990s and among those that come to mind is the one concerning Rumah Bangga in Bakong Baram in December 1997.
Three members of the longhouse were shot by the police, resulting in the death of Enyang Ak Gendang.
The three were among those defending their longhouse and their land against an oil palm company.
Impending war with natives
Another unforgettable incident in which four gangsters sent by Sarawak Oil Palm to threaten residents of Rumah Busang and Rumah Bali in Miri Division were killed and three others injured.
The incident occurred on Sept 1, 1999, when a group of nine gangsters armed with samurai swords attacked the Ibans. The Ibans who had held a “sandau hari” were prepared for them.
The latest incident occurred at Rumah Randi in Selangau last month when shot guns were fired at the longhouse. No one was injured at the 4.30am incident on May 25, 2012, but one four-wheel- drive vehicle was damaged.
There were also incidents where heavy machinery were torched by the natives who were forced to take the law into their hands when the authorities ignored their complaints against oil palm companies which had taken away their NCR land and had destroyed their farms and fruit trees.
Early this year, 16 bulldozers worth more than RM10 million belonging to Tabung Haji in Simunjan were torched by the angry Ibans.
“While the authorities continue to issue provisional leases on NCR land and sell them to oil palm companies, disregarding the rights of the natives, in the final analysis, the ‘war’ will be between the natives and the oil palm companies,” said Joshua Jabeng, a PKR potential candidate for Selangau.
“I am afraid that will be the scenario,” he said when asked to comment on the “sandau hari” of Rumah Sigan.