A plantation company owned by an Sarawak ex-assemblyman has ordered natives to pay an 'access fee' to enter their own farms.
KUCHING: Native landowners of Kampung Danau, Melikin, Serian are preparing to sue an oil palm company which is allegedly using gangsters to threaten them and prevent them from entering their gardens and farms.
The natives have instructed lawyer Baru Bian to file a legal suit against United Teamtrade Sdn Bhd for asking them to pay for access into their own lands.
“We will file the suit very soon, maybe next week against the oil palm company,” said Bian.
According to Bian, the natives received a letter signed by one Ha Haw Kong, who is a director of United Teamtrade Sdn Bhd, claiming that the lands now belonged to the company as they had been awarded provisional leases and that villagers wanting to enter the land must now pay an accessibility fee.
The letter dated Feb 29 was copied to the Serian police chief, the superintendent of Lands and Surveys, and Samarahan district officer.
Said Ha: “It has come to our management’s notice that motor vehicles from outside our estate have often times used our estate’s field road to get access for private activities.
“We would like to bring forth to your kind attention of our management’s decision effective March 15, to impose accessibility fee per single… for all motor vehicles for using our field roads unless permission is being granted by our management…
“A motorcycle will be charged RM5, while a saloon car will be charged RM30 and land cruiser, lorry and above will be charged RM50.
“The fee has to be paid at our estate’s guard house or such office decided by our management… and an official receipt shall then be issued in return for payment made.
“However, our management reserves the right not to endorse such permission at any time if it deems appropriate,” the letter stated.
Company owned by ex-assemblyman
Bian, who is also the Sarawak PKR chairman and Ba’Kelalan assemblyman, said: “This is crazy as the natives have various patches of farms, gardens and plots of land for oil palm.
“And the company is using gangsters to prevent them from criss-crossing within the provisional leased area given to the company. One vehicle was burnt in June and believed to be the work of a group of gangsters.
“How can they do that as the farmers have to go to their farms and their gardens? Now they are being prevented if they use motorcycles, cars and 4WD vehicles unless they pay the stated amount,” he said.
“For the first time, I see this sort of thing. I think it is really crazy. So I want to raise the issue in the press and question the three authorities – the Serian OCPD, the lands and surveys superintendent of Samarahan and the district officer – whether it is permissible or not.
“To my mind this is not correct, and now they [the landowners] have sought my legal advice. We will be filing the case very soon, maybe next week,” Bian said, urging them also to raise the matter with their representatives.
Melikin is under the Sri Aman parliamentary constituency whose representative is Masir Kujat of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS).
The area comes directly under the Balai Ringin state constituency which is represented by Snowdan Lawan of PRS.
According to Bian, these natives were once the strong supporters of Barisan Nasional.
“I remember we were chased out from their village when we campaigned for our candidate in the last election. But today we were given a rousing welcome when we visited them on Wednesday,” Bian said, pointing out that they have been “sold” by the BN to the oil palm companies.
Three companies have been give provisional leases to plant oil palm in the area. Besides United Teamtrade, the other two are Memaju Jaya and Tetangga Arkab.
Memaju Jaya is said to be owned by the former Kedup assemblyman, Frederick Bayoi Manggie, a senior leader of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu.
No action from police
More than 5,500 acres of native customary rights land are believed to be within the provisional leases of the three companies.
In June, a 4WD vehicle worth about RM76,000 owned by Michael Luang, leader of the Iban natives defending their NCR land, was torched.
The vehicle was parked near his house at Kampung Tanah Mawang, about 20km from Serian.
He had lodged a report at the Serian police station, but so far no one has been arrested.
“It is obvious that these people were trying to intimidate me because I am one of the leaders who are defending our NCR land.
“I can tell you we will not be cowed by this act of vandalism. Instead, we will become more resolute in defending our NCR land,” Luang said, adding that their great grandparents had created these NCR land for them.
Luang was one of the Iban natives from several longhouses from Balai Ringin who carried out camped-in protests at the car park of the lands and surveys office in mid-May this year.