Angry land-grab victims of the Rungus, Kimaragang, Sonsogon and Sungei tribes in northern Sabah have pledged to defend their NCR lands to the death.
They claimed the land grabs, some of which they alleged were backed by politicians from the ruling party, had resulted in bitter experiences for thousands of them.
Many of these natives are displaced and squatting in nearby villages as well as awaiting court orders obtained by big companies with political links.
Hosting the rally last Saturday at Torong Soko overlooking the Marudu Bay here was the surging State Reform Party (STAR), which successfully applied for and obtained a police permit under the recently passed Peaceful Rally Act.
The Dusunic tribes of Rungus, Kimaragang, Sonsogon and Sungei who are victims of the land grabs pledged to defend their NCR lands to the death.
They also pledged to thwart the ruling Umno-led Barisan Nasional’s bid to retain its parliamentary and state seats in the north at the coming general election.
Local media, meanwhile, blacked out news of the rally which was also attended by STAR Sabah chairman, Jeffrey Kitingan.
The protesters last weekend put up many placards which, among others, carried slogans calling for the BN government to respect various conventions including the United Nations’s convention on right of the natives on land.
Three representatives of the land-grab victims spoke for about 10 minutes each at the rally, warning the people of worse things to come if the current BN leaders continued to helm the state as they are already beholden not only to outside power but to businessmen from big companies.
The three were Jaipin Mohigal, a former policeman and former ketua kampung (village headman) from Tandek, pastor Marunsai Dawai from Matunggung and Midon Madoi, a village headman of Kampung Bongkol, Pitas.
More land rallies soon
Looking straight at the OCPD standing across him, Jaipin said: “I have been chased out of my NCR land, they (Sabah Forestry Department) burned my house, but I won’t budge as this is my land. I will die here, and I am not afraid to die for my rights, you can arrest me…”
Midon said he decided to take the lead even though he is a government-appointed village headman because he believed he was doing the right thing to help defend the NCR rights of the natives.
Marunsai also called on the people to think carefully about the future as what happened to them might also happen to their next generation if the government continue to allow land grabs via dubious tricks.
Allegations are rife that land grabs were carried out using government agencies, to force the evacuation of the natives to make way for big companies to take over their lands for palm oil plantation.
Jeffrey in his speech said the current government was totally lost in its purpose and is no longer protecting the natives.
“Never in history have Sabahans been treated worst like under this current government where they prefer to give lands to outsiders and companies than the natives who have been living in the areas for generations.
“If we don’t decide to repel this government, who else will help us? It is now the time, and it us who must determine our own future in our own land. Vote for change this time,” he said to loud applause of “Ini Kali Lah”.
Earlier, organising chairman, Maklin Masiau, in his speech, said the rally in Pitas is the launching pad for more peaceful rallies on land issues and that the effort to regain respect for NCR would reverberate across Sabah.
“There would be more bigger rallies…” he said, adding that it is the people who wanted to protest the government’s biased treatment against them.
Maklin, a teacher who recently resigned from his post, is said to be among the earliest that had been “confirmed” as STAR candidate. He is earmarked to stand in Pitas state constituency, currently held by Umno’s Bolkiah Ismail.
The OCPD of Kota Marudu, Mohd Isa Othman, with dozens of policemen both in uniform and plainclothes were present throughout the rally which started just before noon and ended peacefully at 5pm.