An interim injunction has been granted to 15 Iban longhouse communities in upper Sebangan in Simunjan, Sarawak, ordering Quality Concrete Holdings Bhd and its contractor Loyal Billion Sdn Bhd to halt logging, land clearing and other related activities there.
Timber concession licence holder Quality Concrete is substantially owned by Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s sister, Roziah. Another two of Taib’s family members also have shares in the company.
Taib’s first cousin, Hamed Sepawi, is listed 28th among the 30 largest shareholders of Quality Concrete as at May 6, 2010, according the company’s annual report for that year. Another Taib relative is his brother-in-law Abdul Aziz Husain, a former state secretary, who is listed at 24th.
The longhouse communities are claiming native customary rights to the land. The 15 villages are proprietors, occupiers, holders and claimants of NCR lands surrounding Kampung Entanggor, Ensika, Lumut, Arus Dayak, Tongkah Dayak, Tongkah Dayak Lubuk Manta, Tongkah Dayak Atas, Tongkah Dayak Rumah Panjai, Lunying, Belimbing Besi, Ketimbong and Bajong Ili, Bajong Ili Atas, Bajong Ili Tengah, Bajong Ili Baruh, located about three hours’ drive from Kuching.
District office, forest department refuse to act
In November 2009, the Sarawak Forest Department issued Quality Concrete with a “Licence to Take Jungle Produce”, but the company has been extracting timber from an area measuring 5,525 hectares, which the native Iban communities claim to be their NCR land.
The company and its contractor Loyal Billion faced strong resistance from the local native communities when logging operations began in June 2010. The longhouse residents lodged police reports and sent numerous letters to the relevant authorities asking for the logging to be stopped.
Frustrated by the refusal to act on the part of the local district office and the forest department, the natives last October set up barricades along the logging tracks.
The stand-off came to public attention when Loyal Billion directors told a press conference in Sibu that their logging camp, located 4km from the native blockade site, was torched on Oct 18.
Police then stepped in and arrested activists Nicholas Mujah and Numpang anak Suntai, as well as five longhouse chiefs. They were detained for three days and then released on police bail.
In November 2010, Numpan and 290 other representatives of the Iban communities filed a suit against Quality Concrete, Loyal Billion, the Sarawak Forest Department director and three others for trespassing and encroaching into their native customary land and seeking a declaration on their customary rights to the land.
Barely two weeks after filing the civil suit, Numpang was brought before a magistrate’s court in Serian and charged with “criminal intimidation”.
In the affidavit filed in support of his application for an interim injunction, Numpang included photographs of the timber logging activities being carried out, despite the expiry of Quality Concrete’s logging licence.
The photographs were said to have been taken in the presence of police officers from the Simunjan station.
After hearing submissions from See Chee How of Baru Bian Advocates and Solicitors yesterday morning, judicial commissioner Rhodzariah Bujang granted the interim injunction and fixed the inter-parte application to be heard on Feb 9.
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