Hornbill Unleashed

May 12, 2011

Bidayuh villagers burn timber camp

Keruah Usit

Natives from 10 villages in Tebedu, Sarawak, are said to have torched dormitories, bulldozers, tractors and other machinery at a timber camp on May 9.

The Bidayuh villagers had been blockading the timber access road of logging contractor Alliance Bahagia to defend their Native Customary Rights (NCR) land.

According to witnesses, nobody was injured in the arson attack. Police arrived at the scene in Tebedu, about 90 minutes’ drive from Kuching, in time to see the equipment and buildings aflame.

Police were far outnumbered by “emotional” villagers and did not make any arrest.

bengoh dam bidayuh protest sarawak 191208 05“When we arrived, the machinery and the workers’ quarters were already on fire. As the situation was tense, we decided to monitor the situation only,” Serian police chief ASP Awangku Ahmaddin Awang Wang said, according to local daily The Borneo Post.

The villagers said their reports to the government on the loggers’ incursions onto their NCR land were ignored.

Instead, local assembly representatives and state Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister Michael Manyin Jawong angered the constituents by claiming that the villagers had been protesting for money.

‘Land and jungle are our ancestral properties’

A spokesperson for the 10 communities, Bisa Duda, had told The Borneo Post on April 29 that Manyin had been lying. He said the villagers rejected the timber company’s intrusion because “our NCR land and our jungle… are our ancestral properties.”

Bisa said the company and five ketua kampung or village chiefs had signed a secret contract, allowing the company to use the land belonging to the 10 communities, without the knowledge of the people. The signing had been witnessed by the penghulu(community leader), Jen anak Landong.

He said the contract stipulated RM1.50 would be paid for every tonne of logs extracted, to be shared equally among the five signatories, but made no mention of the rights of the villagers owning the NCR land.

After the fire at the logging camp, one unnamed villager was quoted by the newspaper as saying, “They have tested our patience and we just cannot take it anymore. We have lodged several reports and complaints to the authorities, but the logging activities continued. We are fed up. Our rights have been encroached, our crops destroyed.”

Dr Christopher Kiyui of the PKR, who lost to Manyin in the recent state assembly election, told shortwave station Radio Free Sarawakthat 500 unnamed villagers had “burnt 13 Caterpillar and tractor machines and some lorries, around 10 in the morning. About 50 people came from each village.

“Bidayuh are mild and gentle people, but now they have lost patience. I hope the government gets this message… that what they are doing is too much.”

Christopher said the villagers’ actions had taken him by surprise, but he understood their frustration.

“This is their life, their land was taken,” he explained.

Defending their land in the courts

A leading land rights lawyer in Kuching told Malaysiakini that the communities would fare better by pursuing their NCR claims in court. He said the alleged arson might work against the NCR claimants in the long run.

Sporadic acts of defiance, sparked by disputes over land, have broken out during the reign of Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud over the past 30 years.

Taib’s family has profited handsomely from logging concessions and takeovers of NCR land throughout the state, while logging and oil palm plantation blockades have been erected by the Iban, Malays, Penan and other Orang Ulu in various parts of Sarawak.

This, however, is the first incident of the Bidayuh taking the law into their own hands on this scale. The Bidayuh live mainly near the urban centre of Kuching and many have been well educated in mission schools.

However, within an hour’s drive from Kuching, many Bidayuh rice farmers live in startling poverty, without treated water or electricity.

NONEThese isolated acts of resistance against logging companies and their powerful backers in the ruling party are unlikely, by themselves, to change Sarawak’s political landscape. They will not translate to a mass movement of civil disobedience in this vast state.

Rural communities remain unconnected with one another, with the people largely unaware of land conflicts affecting NCR landowners in different parts of the state, separated by hundreds of kilometres.

However, NCR issues continue to stir disillusionment with Taib’s “politics of development”, often seen to directly benefit his family members and their close business associates.

There was a swing to the opposition among the Bidayuh and other Dayak communities in the recently concluded state election, although this translated to only two rural seats for the opposition, Krian and Ba’Kelalan.

The political awakening caused by NCR discontent among these rural communities may yet translate to greater opportunities for opposition parties DAP and PKR to lay their groundwork for rural support in the coming parliamentary election, and subsequent contests.

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. Try some of these methods. One, visual aids like the land distruction,cheque issued are fraud,areas flooded due to dam const.,timber extraction etc…….take afford to do these pls…….. GOOD LUCK

    Comment by Robert H. — May 15, 2011 @ 10:40 AM | Reply

  2. Have any one heard about the NCR land status in Rimbas area? According to rumors, I heard that all 10 Tuai Rumahs signed off to convert it to State land. As a result, Penghulu Jawie, who happened to be my brother-in-law, also signed off on the Rimbas NCR land to be converted to State land. You know how that goes and to whom the land will eventually go to. Sigh!

    Does anyone know more about this?

    Comment by Christina S. Suntai — May 12, 2011 @ 11:46 PM | Reply

  3. Bidayuh are better educated in number when compared with the Ibans n orang ulu. They live close to the cities and should be well exposed to modern media. How come we don’t see any educated Bidayuh coming forward to champion their cause!? Maybe they have yet to create their own Baru Bian! to fight for them!

    Comment by Juan — May 12, 2011 @ 7:19 PM | Reply

    • 500 villagers in unison seems to be a concerted and well organized efforts, don’t you think?

      Educated Bidayuhs may be afraid of losing their jobs with the current BN administration as so too many others educated folks throughout Sarawak. As I said the educated ones have a lot of influences over the rural folks but they also have their own pots and pans to look after. Their influences could be negative against the folks who are fighting hard to hold on to their NCR lands and forests.

      Been there, done that!

      Comment by Christina S. Suntai — May 12, 2011 @ 11:56 PM | Reply


      Comment by HH2H — May 13, 2011 @ 12:02 AM | Reply

  4. “..five ketua kampung or village chiefs had signed a secret contract..”

    What kind of Ketua Kampung who betray his own village people? The villagers should sack them!

    Comment by babai — May 12, 2011 @ 7:11 PM | Reply

    • tuai rumah babi hutan… kumbai ya kaya bulih ratus ringgit..anak2..ucu2…asuh merinsa seumurt idup. next time around vote BN out…need a change in government, they hv not done enough to help the people. SUNAT DIA DUA KALI..

      Comment by Panggau — May 13, 2011 @ 11:00 AM | Reply

  5. Come this Gawai festival. We must try to get the actual feedback from our fellow kampong/longhouse folks. We must not allow the obligated rules to come pressing onto us from the spying TRs for whatever their groundless support to the BN policy. All must come in unison to reason out and strengthen their beliefs on every individual rights and privileges on matters pertaining NCR land, timber, educations, medical services and ground pollution.

    It is the most appropriate time then to drill the TRs during the rennai rounds so as to dispel or cast out the evil spirits of those who practise unrighteous and corruptions.

    So much time and efforts had been wasted during the recent SE campaign. The result was dismissal. Ask whether did they expect their winning to that particular Candidate/Party they voted for. Do they united for the coming GE?

    Comment by miaowkia — May 12, 2011 @ 4:40 PM | Reply

  6. It true where to live when your NCR land been taken, ask this BN YB to live in jungle!Damm you Manyin!

    Comment by Kobelco — May 12, 2011 @ 3:25 PM | Reply

    • He don’t care where the people lives…..200% sure he won’t go back to live in the jungle and that why he destroy and steal as much timber he can lay his hands on! Why? Because already millions of USD stash in a bank somewhere…..and he also has few bungalows….his family is secured! So it’s you poor guys for vote will suffer… your whole generation will suffer! Anyway, who cares!

      Comment by HH2H — May 12, 2011 @ 5:10 PM | Reply

  7. Who cares! You voted for him last SGE right? So what the problem now?
    Even the Bengoh Dam is no issue….The Bidayuh are very happy tohave the Bengoh dam!

    Same goes to the Kayan and Kenyah…they voted for BN….so let their lands flood by the Baram dam. The dam will flood most of the lower part of the kenyah lands in Baram….so I am sure they will some argument in future!

    Comment by HH2H — May 12, 2011 @ 1:45 PM | Reply


    The Bidayuh actions in defence of their land shows that if all Sarawakians can unite as they do we can do even better.

    That is we unite to drive out the Malayan colonialists.

    The foreign rulers and their local running dogs only understand one language- need not spell out here!

    Comment by Orang2bangkit — May 12, 2011 @ 11:52 AM | Reply

    • You failed to vote out the foxes that keep mesmerising you with money… then after being elected they come back and “main main” with your land. Well my friends, all is not lost you can vote out the BN in the federal elections and still keep your land, Once fooled makes you wise, twice fooled then your mother gave birth to a moron.

      Comment by homeboy — May 12, 2011 @ 2:19 PM | Reply

      • They been voting for BN for the past 40 years1 Its not a moron….its worst that moron!

        Comment by HH2H — May 12, 2011 @ 5:12 PM | Reply


        Comment by Peoplespower — May 12, 2011 @ 6:38 PM | Reply

  9. Well, all the rakyat of S’wak were given the golden chance during just concluded state election to bring about change but they prefer to keep UMNO/BN/PBB the corrupted government to go on. See the result in Tebedu. A wakil rakyat in Michael Manyin, a full minister in the state cabinet has been called by their people as a liar. All the appointed community leaders are the same, they’re appointed to collaborate with all these bloodsuckers to rompak our NCR land. These are what the rakyat of S’wak manifestated in just concluded PRN10. You all wanting ur NCR land to be rompak by Taib and the gangs. Vote for PBB/UMNO/BN for just RM30 then all ur NCR land will be theirs alike in Tebedu n many other areas the whole of S’wak. All the best. Only God save u all from these evils n dajals.

    Comment by Buduk — May 12, 2011 @ 8:26 AM | Reply

  10. Is it possible for someone to compile a database about Dayaks’ struggles to hold on to their NCR properties? This way we can talk about others’ struggles and relate the stories to other villages in Sarawak with actual data.

    As you know, many folks in the rural areas do not have access to this sort of information. Radio Free Sarawak is not heard by all and the news on Internet is not available for rural folks. We were hoping that we can spread the words to their children who are somewhat educated but it is dangerous as they are the ones who can cause more harm than good because they are somewhat “half” informed and already brain washed, especially if they are fortunate enough to be working in government agencies. This group of folks is the most resistant and having a little bit of education they tend to think they know it all.

    I would like to compile a database but do not have all the data. I would like know, date, time and the other four Ws: When, What, Where, Who. We do need to get all the “fighters of NCR land” to be connected to each other and it would be very good if all can get together and discussed our common struggles on a regular basis. Is SADIA spread out all over Sarawak? There are some many organization sprouting out to deal with this sort of thing but are they communicating to each other? How often do they meet to discuss the issue?

    I think this is important when talking to rural folks in the future. Even in Sebangan area, not everyone is aware of the pending court cases and many folks did not realize that taking 250 ringgit was in reality selling their rights to the logging company. They got so insulted when being told that they are selling their NCR rights for a mere 250 ringgit.

    I am just an ordinary concerned person and not as smart as the rest of you but we need to be in communication with all the communities who are fighting to protect their NCR lands and forest. We need to unite as one to be strong and effective. Can we do that? Or will we be scrambling to outdo each other?

    I am willing to volunteer to compile the data into one database. I also like to know the leader in each community as the point of contact and getting the latest update from there. I am sure this is already done but maybe I am the only one who is not aware of it. If it is already done, I am also in dark like many other rural folks and my conclusion is therefore, the news is not as widely spread out as we would like to think.

    P.S. When my brother, Numpang Suntai first started to fight for our NCR lands in Sebangan, the expenses for transportation, petrol, coffee, sugar, drinks, food etc. came out of his own pockets. After a while it was getting too much so I told him let’s see if we can ask folks to donate and many of our friends and relatives did.

    Comment by Christina S. Suntai — May 12, 2011 @ 3:20 AM | Reply

    • Go out there, find them and be among them. All victims of NCR land grabs and those Dayaks who have yet to lose their NCR lands must unite as a force to fight the authoritarian and abusive regime of UMNO controlled BN and the paramount thief minister of Sarawak Taib Mahmud. Even ordinary Sarawakians who do not own NCR land should not absolve themselves of the responsibility to fight a abusive, corrupted, oppressive and repressive regime. Get organised and march to the DUN. Demand for all NCR lands which had been extinguished by Taib’s land law to be returned to all the rightful owners and their decendents. Taib must be held solely responsible and must step down.

      Comment by Mata Kuching — May 12, 2011 @ 6:41 AM | Reply

    • What help the Dayak needs? Nothing…..why help the Dayak as seen in the SGE recently….majority vote for BN! Escpecially the IBAN! Love to see all the Dayak driven out of their land now….. Yes yes…. to Taib cronies…. yes… if possible even the land where their longhouse also be taken away….

      just becuase of few hundred ringgit.. the dayak sold their soul!

      So BB you better stay put and get your priorities done….your owe the kelabit….they are your priority. Without the kelabit you wont be where you are now….. otherwise you can play kite next time….dont waste your time helping the IBAN/BIDAYUH!

      Comment by Very Angry Swakian... — May 12, 2011 @ 12:58 PM | Reply

    • Christina s. Suntai, if u really want to know the real story about Tebedu cases, u can contact me. I know the story from A to Z because i am from tebedu.

      Comment by Vantata — June 16, 2011 @ 4:30 PM | Reply

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