Iban natives in the Ulu Niah areas are banding together in support of the 700 longhouse residents who were issued eviction notices to move out.
MIRI: Concerned natives in longhouses in and around the Ulu Niah areas in Miri are throwing their support behind the 700 residents of Rumah Sigan who were issued with a 14-day eviction notice by a Sarawak Administrative Officer (SAO) despite the case still being in court.
Residents of Rumah Sigan were ordered to move out of their more than 40-year-old homes by SAO by June 26 to enable oil palm company Medan Mustika to undertake demolishing works. Medan Mustika is a subsidiary of WTK, which is linked to Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.
Angry residents declared ‘war’ on the ‘enemies’ and on Tuesday, June 26 and performed an ancient ‘war’ ceremony inviting the assistance of their gods.
The ‘sandau hari’ ceremony was held throughout the day and night as people kept vigil against possible threats from workers or employees of Medan Mustika.
Said neighbouring longhouse chief Tuai Ruman Sana who was present during the ‘sandau hari’ ritual ceremony: “What has happened (or will happen) to Rumah Sigan can also happen to other longhouses.
“It is therefore important for all us to support one another. We cannot be afraid anymore.
He also urged other longhouse chiefs to stand up and defend their land and people, adding that they should not be afraid of “losing your monthly allowance of RM450.”
“Do not be afraid to lose your monthly allowance of RM450, and do not be afraid to be sacked as Tuai Rumah (longhouse headman).
“What is more important is that we must be united and support one another in time of trouble. In the case of eviction notice given to Rumah Sigan, we all must come to his defence,” said Tuai Rumah Sana.
‘We’re not moving’
Several other longhouse headmen and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who spoke at the ceremony expressed similar sentiments and sympathies.
Some 200 residents from nearby longhouses were ready to support Tuai Rumah Sigan and his followers.
Expressing his deep appreciation to those present, Tuai Rumah Sigan said that he and his followers were encouraged by their strong support and commitment.
“As long as we are still alive, we will not move out from the longhouse that we have built more than 40 years ago.
“If we are forced to move out, where they want us to settle as there are no more available lands in and around this area? All lands belong to other people.
“In the event that the company or the government forces us to leave our longhouse, we have no other place to go and that leaves us no choice but to squat on any government building until the government provides us land for us to build our new home.
“And that we will do. We want the government or the company to feed us and our families” Sigan said, adding that by evicting them from the homes, the state government was creating more problems for itself.
Meanwhile, the Borneo Resources Institute of Malaysia has expressed shock at the insensitive treatment of the natives
Its executive director, Mark Bujang said: “The Ibans are angry with the way the SAO abused his position as a government servant to serve them with the eviction notice at behest of an oil palm plantation company, Medan Mustika Sdn. Bhd.
“The company is currently in dispute with the longhouse community with regards to the latter allegedly encroaching into the native customary land of Rumah Sigan,” he said in a statement.
Case still in court
Bujang said, in SAO issued eviction notice, the Ibans were told to vacate their longhouse within 14 days from the date of the notice failing which legal action will be taken against them. The deadline was June 26, 2012.
“The reasons given for the eviction notice were that the residents of Rumah Sigan failed to turn up for a dialogue with the company on May 15, 2012 and that on May 27, 2012 the Miri High Court had decided to dismiss the legal action brought by the longhouse residents against the Superintendent of Lands and Surveys Miri Division and two others,” he said.
He added however that on June 22, 2012, the longhouse community responded to the eviction notice saying that they disagreed with the said notice and would not vacate the area as they are currently appealing the Miri High Court’s decision and that no order was made by the court to order them to vacate the area.
Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing, meanwhile has pledged to bring the matter up with the relevant authorities.
Rumah Sigan is within the parliamentary constituency of Bintulu as well as the state constituency of Kemena where Stephen Rundi is the assemblyman.
So far no other BN leaders including Rundi have any comment or have visited them.