Masing: Suspend licences of plantation companies employing gangsters

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PETALING JAYA: Plantation companies which engage gangsters in Native Customary Rights (NCR) land disputes, should have their operating licences suspended, said Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister James Masing.

The Borneo Post quoted Masing saying this in response to a recent incident in Balingian where a clash between NCR land owners and gangsters allegedly hired by a plantation company resulted in the death of a 26-year-old man.

“Sarawak must be very serious and strict about it, and stop it once and for all, or the problem of gangsterism in plantations will never end. It will go on and on.”

The recent death is reminiscent of the murder of PKR man Bill Kayong on June 20, this year. Kayong, a vocal advocate of NCR land issues, was gunned down at a traffic light in broad daylight. He was reportedly helping NCR land owners in a land dispute with a plantation company, when he was assassinated.

Masing said while it was not wrong for plantation companies to employ its own auxiliary police, they must ensure that the personnel are qualified for the job, and are not gangsters.

Masing, who is also State Infrastructure Development and Transportation Minister, also advised land owners in land disputes to settle their issues in court and not take the law into their own hands.

In the incident on Monday, the deceased, Fabian Janti Lebau, was found lying-face down on the ground with a machete in one hand, believed to have been shot dead.

The man, who was said to be employed by the plantation company, was shot at a blockade leading to an oil palm plantation at Ulu Sungai Arip in Balingian, Mukah. The blockade had been in place since early this month as villagers living along a road on an NCR land, are demanding more compensation from a company which owns a plantation there.

The incident received backlash, including from state PKR chairman Baru Bian, who called for a stop to NCR land dispute-related deaths.

He also called for the government to step in to resolve NCR land issues instead of letting land owners and plantation companies slug it out, and urged for the setting up of a Land Rights Commission, to look into such issues.