If the government continues to remain aloof from clashes between natives and oil palm companies, then it should be prepared for a bloodbath.
KUCHING: Despite two attempts on his life by workers allegedly from Palm Raya Pelita, Semawi Anak Renang will not be intimidated in defending his native customary rights (NCR) land and that of 25 other families.
Instead the threats against him and the other landowners of Rumah Randi, Selangau, have made them more determined than ever to defend their 3,000 hectares of land.
Last Wednesday, the landowners organised a “sandau hari” (a ceremony in preparation for war) invoking the spirits of their forefathers for assistance, strength and courage following the second attempt on Semawi’s life.
The latest attempt on his life was made on July 2.
According to Semawi, he was on the way to take his bath in a river near the longhouse, when he saw two 4WD vehicles, one of which was blocking the road.
He went to the driver to ask him to remove the vehicle, when suddenly another vehicle rushed at him. He was hit and thrown into the bush. Both vehicles hurriedly left the scene.
Several people witnessed the incident.
His wife Leman Anak Senang claimed that one of the managers from the company met her, offering RM20,000 to pay for her husband’s medical expenses, and urged her not to report the incident to the police.
She turned down the offer and lodged a report with the Selangau police station. Semawi is now in Sibu General Hospital.
Semawi’s home shot at
The first attempt on his life was made in the early hours of May 25 when strangers fired shotguns towards his house. No one was injured, but his 4WD was damaged.
A report had also been made with the police.
Semawi believed that he was the target of the gangsters allegedly employed by the company as he and 25 others refused to surrender their land to the company after the company failed to adhere to the agreement between them and the company.
They have filed legal action against the company and the case is pending.
During the “sandau hari” hundreds of residents from other longhouses pledged to fight together with them.
“We must be united to defend our rights. When our rights are taken away, in this case our land, we must not retreat.
“Our forefathers defended their land with blood and tears,” they said.
Meanwhile, Joshua Jabeng, PKR’s potential candidate for the Selangau seat, has called on the government especially the police to arrest the culprits and take immediate action in order to prevent violence and bloodshed.
He said that the companies had to proceed with their activities as they had invested millions of ringgit in oil palm, but the native landowners had to defend their rights.
“So bloody clashes between the natives and the oil palm companies are expected if the government does not intervene,” he warned.
Jabeng also said the government should be held responsible for any consequences as the government was the one which gave provisional leases to these companies to take away the rights of the natives.
Editor’s note: In the original version of this story, we had stated that the landowners claimed that the Palm Raya Pelita oil palm plantation was owned by Tiong King Sing, the MP for Bintulu. However we have since been informed by Tiong that was not true. We regret the error.