Hornbill Unleashed

August 23, 2010

Lawless Lawas highlights rural voters’ anger

azlanBy Keruah Usit

Rural Sarawakians are becoming increasingly vocal about their dissatisfaction with their lack of basic public services, and with their shabby treatment at the hands of corporate and bureaucratic outsiders.

A new flashpoint is the construction of the Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline Project through customary land belonging to Lun Bawang natives around Lawas, a small town near the border between the two east Malaysian states. Lun Bawang villagers have blockaded the access road for the project.

Local villagers have reported heightened tensions between local villagers and two corporate giants, gas producer Petronas and logging company Samling, according to the Sarawak Indigenous Community News website.

Enormous pipes are being laid to channel gas from the Sabah Oil and Gas terminal at Kimanis to the Petronas Liquefied Natural Gas complex in Bintulu in Sarawak, a distance of 500km.

The reported cost to Petronas has been wildly variable, up to RM3 billion. According to Petronas, the pipeline is scheduled to completed by the end of this year.

NONE“As (the pipeline goes) through this area, there are a lot of objections because it encroaches into the Native Customary Rights land of the locals,” said Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian (left), a prominent land rights lawyer, born in nearby Long Semado. “The whole (area) from Lawas to Long Resina to Long Sukang, Long Luping, will be affected by this.”

The state government has claimed the pipeline will benefit 1,800 local welders and fitters, among others.

“It is without doubt a mega project that will definitely create economic spin-offs… during a recent meeting with the state government, Petronas assured that certain scopes of work would be for Malaysian and Sarawakian contractors,” gushed Wong Soon Koh, second finance minister, in a recent reply to a question in the state assembly.

Promises dishonoured

“We have been here a long time. Around the 60s, we opened up this area for our village,” said Sakai Pengeran, village head of Long Resina, on August 12. Long Resina is a village of 12 households in the heartland of the Lun Bawang in northeastern Sarawak, some 30km from the small administrative centre of Lawas.

The Lun Bawang, hardy and hospitable people famous for their hill rice, are included in the “Orang Ulu” ethnic grouping.

samling group“This blockade is related to the dispute between the villagers and Samling and the Petronas pipeline, because when Samling entered this area (in 1986) they agreed to pay us compensation of RM40 for every rantai of land (20m) for 60 years,” the village chief explained. He added that the villagers are still negotiating with Samling over the compensation payments.

Long Resina was at the centre of a blockade in 2006 against timber extraction by a Samling subsidiary, KTN Timor. Villagers had complained that promises of compensation to native customary rights (NCR) landowners, the local Malay and Lun Bawang communities, had not been honoured.

Some 30 landowners participated in this latest blockade. “The villagers’ previous agreement was for the transportation of timber from the log pond (through our land), but now Samling has taken a contract to connect the pipeline through our land. This pipeline does not take people’s land into consideration,” the village chief argued.

The village head said the protest was not only for Long Resina, but for the villages in the surrounding 20km. “The blockade started yesterday. We don’t know how long we’ll have to go on.”

Nelson Balang Rining, local state assembly representative for Ba’Kelalan, was quoted by the Borneo Post on Aug 11 as saying, “It is just a matter of a small demand from the sub-contractor, that’s why the locals did the blockade, but it will be settled soon.”

A similar blockade against the mammoth gas pipeline by Penan, Kenyah and Lun Bawang villagers in Long Kevok, Baram, in also in progress.

A local villager has said the Petronas contractor has caused extensive and unnecessary destruction to forests surrounding the pipe-laying work.

Despair over public services

Lawas covers an area of 3811sq-km, three times the size of Malacca. It is home to 35,000 Lun Bawang, Malays, Iban, Kedayan and Chinese people, mostly farmers.

NONEPublic services have come under intense scrutiny in this deprived area.

Local people are angry over multiple reports of police brutality, inaction over syabu methamphetamines and other drugs flooding the area, substandard health services, and the dangerous condition of the road leading upcountry to Ba’Kelalan – a road bypassed by most state ministers and elected representatives, using helicopters.

Lawrence Jayaraj campaigns tirelessly for better services for Lawas people. His late mother-in-law was Kam Agong, 45, a Lun Bawang woman from Long Semado. Kam Agong’s father, Agong Dawat, a war veteran, had been awarded medals for bravery during the Japanese Occupation.

Kam Agong, a mother of nine, died of complications from surgery at the tiny Lawas District Hospital in March 2002. Her family said that Kam Agong had not been asked for informed consent for a Caesarean section. Another admission to the hospital for severe bleeding after the initial surgery was fruitless. She was repeatedly discharged without being referred to a specialist, and died at home.

kam agong family 130309 familyThe family (right) alleged that healthcare workers visited Kam Agong’s village after she died, removed all the medical documents and medicines of the deceased, and told her family that Kam Agong’s death had been “fated”.

“They will victimise the poor, innocent and ignorant,” Lawrence Jayaraj said on his website, dedicated to the deceased lady,

“They thought (this family) incapable of bringing legal action…they know the predicament of the Lun Bawang community of Long Semado.”

The family has lived through hell since Kam Agong’s death. They were finally awarded damages of RM136,888 for medical negligence, after eight years of bravely fighting the state bureaucracy.

“We would rather have our mother back,” the family said.

Lawrence Jayaraj has criticised the building of a new luxury hotel in Lawas, but not a new hospital. “What the people in Lawas and Long Semado want is a proper hospital and not a Hotel Seri Malaysia. Convert the hotel building into a Lawas General Hospital, it will bring a lot more people to Lawas,” he told Malaysiakini.

The district hospital in Lawas is one of the oldest in Sarawak, and is in poor shape, with inadequate staff and no specialists. Senior government officials, including health minister Liow Tiong Lai, have pledged many times to build a new hospital, but nothing has come of the repeated promises over five decades.

NONE“We are (lobbying) for a better healthcare and well-equipped and professionally trained hospital staff, for (a better) education system, for public transport, for job opportunities with appropriate remuneration, for proper schools with effective teaching staff and for proper hostels,” he said.

“Generations after generations the communities in Lawas, predominantly the Lun Bawang people, have been neglected and they have accepted everything as fated.

“I hear them praying for a better life, for a better future. But…nothing has changed.

“The children I have met in Long Semadoh are children of God. We say… if we can build the Twin Towers, we can build a brighter future for our children.”


KERUAH USIT is a human rights activist – ‘anak Sarawak, bangsa Malaysia’. This weekly column is an effort to provide a voice for marginalised Malaysians. Keruah Usit can be contacted at keruah_usit@yahoo.com.



  1. […] is one seat that SNAP steadfastly has indicated to their Pakatan partners that they are convinced that they will pull of a surprise and defeat the incumbent Peter Nyarok. […]

    Pingback by “WAR IN N34 KRIAN” | Audie61's Weblog — July 13, 2013 @ 9:28 PM | Reply

  2. Kalau mau maju kita mesti terima pembangunan yang dirancang…..bukan mempertikaikan usaha kerajaan.Saya anak belia Lawas perlu pekerjaan bukan perjuangan yang menolak pembangunan.Lihat sekarang pembinaan pipeline petronas n hotel sri malaysia telah menaikkan nama Lawas di peta Malaysia…im really proud…Please laa berfikiran kehadapan jangan hanya pandai MEMBANTAH saja….Tidak semua rakyat lawas membantah pembangunan….Hidup PBB,,,,hidup BN

    Comment by pembangunan — November 16, 2010 @ 10:29 PM | Reply

    • a planned development is good for sure. i have no objection abt the pipeline petronas coz it can actually awakened the economy of lawas. however i m not agreed with the hotel sri malaysia at this moment. Ok, i’m not trying to b rude but how many people will actually stay at that hotel with current lawas’s situation?? how many of the poor will actually benefited from that hotel?? ( unless they hired all the poor n jobless ppl in lawas & lawas have a strong tourism spots).. why don’t they use the money to explore more attractive tourism spots?? why don’t they spend more money on this very basic facilities like hospital?? without the healthy ppl, how can they work for a better economy?? whenever they have a serious sickness they have to rush here n there. it’s ok if they r capable but how if they r not??
      if the gov spend more money on tourism of lawas, with more tourists coming to lawas, the increase of economy & prosperity will come automatically. And the opportunity for more business will increase too. But ppl’s health is still the main concern for now. Nobody will wish to see a 5 star tourism or hotel or economy but with lousy health care facilities…

      Comment by min — September 16, 2011 @ 2:26 PM | Reply


      Comment by tuan tanah — September 16, 2011 @ 2:31 PM | Reply

  3. […] Lawless Lawas highlights rural voters’ anger […]

    Pingback by `Lawless Lawas’ report draw police response « Sarawak Indigenous Community News — August 25, 2010 @ 7:07 PM | Reply

  4. BN and empty promises. Sri Aman had been promised a new hospital for decades . Just last month , the news is the health minister has yet again approved the project. No other details.I’ll only vote for BN the day I see the new hospital built. I don’t beleve in their promises anymore.

    Comment by sam — August 24, 2010 @ 5:07 PM | Reply

  5. Why do people even bother to quote Nelson Balang Rining?

    Comment by don'tknowwho — August 24, 2010 @ 4:23 PM | Reply

  6. Lun Bawang people in Long Semadoh and Lawas their enemies:
    1. Lack of Education.
    2. Drugs.
    3. Compromising politicians.
    4. No Proper Hospital….
    …5. Infrastructure.
    6. Foreign national Doctors practicing at the Lawas Hospital.
    7. Incompetent Civil servants.
    8. Lack of professional medical staff.
    9. Lack of Good Teachers.
    10. Lun Bawang fail to voice against oppression.

    Comment by Lawrence Jayaraj — August 24, 2010 @ 12:38 PM | Reply

  7. Politics of development. No benefit whatsoever to the locals. This is development we must reject.

    Comment by OMG — August 23, 2010 @ 9:24 PM | Reply

  8. Wah! surprisingly to hear an Hotel Seri Malaysia in Lawas. Why not another Hilton like the one in Australia. This is the government of the day, the so-called UMNO/BN gov’t. Do they really care of the rakyat welfare. My foot! Not only in Lawas that our healthcare are terrible. It’s everywhere throughout S’wak. Take Sri Aman Hospital, it’s still the same old hospital as 1970s n there’re only 3-4 medical doctors serving the hospital. Can u believe this after 48 yrs independent through forming Malaysia.

    I beg the Lawas people must protest the laying of this gaspipeline which cost 3 billions. The cost is even higher than the 5% oil n gas annually royalty S’wak got from Petronas/Federal gov’t of only 2.72 billion. Are we S’wakians are that so stupid and dumb. I wonder, how uch hv this thief Petronas got from our resources oil n gas annually.

    All S’wakians n not only Lawas people should protest. Everyone must protest. What’re our political leadres got to say about this? They’re all deaf n dumb. They don’t care for the rakyat. There’s no other option to resolve this problem other than to vote out UMNO/BN sanction sate government. Vote them out n vote for Pakatan Rakyat to be the next state government. Just to remind all S’wakians whatever promises BN make don’t ever try to believe it. It’s r all political gimmicks.

    Talking about RM20 millions to survey NCR land all over S’wak. This is another election gimmicks. Can u believe this. Well I may believe they hv given the 20 million. To survey the NCR land. The leaders are all talking their own cocks. U can visit all the offices of Tanah dan Ukur throughout Sarawak n see urself. They don’t hv workers like in the 1960s n 1970s, where majority of the staff of Land n Survey Dept. are labourers. these are the workers who’ll do all the survey works. I was onece a chainman in the dept, that why I know. At the end of the RM20 million will be in somebody’s pocket.

    I want to recall another blunder of the state gov’t promise. This is during the Ngap Sayot era. U remember Awg Mahyan, the Ngap Sayot icon once jumped down the Jambatan Gantung at Satok end. To shorten the story telling, when the bridge broken into pieces everyone in the state gov’t were very serius n committed to revive the suspension bridge by telling louder that it’s herritage n historical. A few names to mention these few peoples include Abg. Joe, Jabu. Checked me if wrong still fresh in my mind, Jabu did mentioned he’ll try to raise RM1 million to rebuild the suspension bridge. So, what hv happen to all this promises all these yrs. What hv Abg. Joe n Jabu done to the idea of reviving the Jambatan Gantung? Don’t just know hot to talk about cocks. St. Thomas Secondary School main block was gutted by fire some yrs ago. There was not so much talk about it. But then just a few yrs later it was rebuild as if it was never gutted by fire. Same happen to Sarawak Club House. But then what happen to Jabu promise for that RM1 millio to rebuild Satok Suspension bridge?

    Comment by Minda Mandol — August 23, 2010 @ 6:26 PM | Reply

  9. Again here what is the real interest behind this gas pipeline project. Though it may create a spin-off to economic activities in the areas what is the sole interest toward it? Are they killing two birds with one stone? Talking of Petronas how much had they siphoned off our resources … how much the royalty?. We Sarawakians can not be benefactor to Petronas and her people for life because they are worth no better than the prodigal children; habitual hand out business otherwise are mentally prepared to corruptions. Secondly, we need to know who are the main contractors for this project. What is the tender cost. Expose all the hidden costs. No doubt that this project can create many job opportunities the staff are as such employed temporarily. Are they willing absorbed them as Petronas staff after completion of the project. Because of such niche market experience their future are bleak too? Thirdly, who are the one to oversee the openings of the pipeline track? The NREB ??? How is the openings affect the environment. Any considerations taken into account of those folks whose hunting grounds being affected. Crops and jungle produce destroyed. What is the width of the pipeline track? There will no forgo to the greed of those cutting down the trees at the merciless hands of the contractors. Wow, money falling from heaven man!!! Do they realise all the jungle resources belonging the statue of NCR? RM40.00 per rantai (20m) meaning just a bean to them all. Again, this could be misleading. The practice to land compensation is unfair then because the width of the pipeline track was uncertain, not determined. Would you say they can move in left and right anyhow at depths to extract the valuable timber then churn for more money? It looks that then our rural folks have had been striped bare to shine their skeletons. Hopefully this is not another daylight robber happening to our poor rural folks .. the rich becoming super rich whilst the poor becoming dirt shits!

    Comment by Miaowkia — August 23, 2010 @ 3:17 PM | Reply

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