Hornbill Unleashed

August 20, 2012

Policeman warns villagers: “I’ll arrest you all”

Filed under: Human rights,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:02 AM
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Pak Bui

A late night police raid on August 12 in Serian, Sarawak, against Iban villagers fighting oil palm companies over Native Customary Rights (NCR) to land, led to no charges being brought, let alone convictions.

But the arrests produced a comical standoff at the Serian police station, when five arrested Iban villagers were released on August 15.

Some 200 Iban men and women had converged peacefully on the Serian police station on Wednesday, when the remand order on the five men was due to expire.

Inspector Azlan Abdul Wahab, the leader of the late night raid, was visibly nervous, but gamely tried to appear stern. He told the assembled villagers: “if you make noise, I’ll arrest you all!”

The young police inspector’s fearsome words vanished like straw in the wind, amid laughter from the crowd, followed by cheerful shouts of “Okay!”. The five detainees were duly freed, on police bond.

Sanjan Ambol, Singa Unsit, Samad Junna, and village heads Nyalu Tampa, and Musit Ngawing, aged between 41 and 58, had been spirited away at 11.45pm on Sunday, from their longhouses in Melikin and Ensebai Plaie, 90 minutes’ drive from Kuching.

The five men spent two and a half bemused days in the Serian lock-up, after an oil palm plantation company had filed a police report claiming that one of its employees had been assaulted and beaten.

However, a local daily reported, without producing any sources, that the Iban were being investigated instead for allegedly burning a bridge belonging to the oil palm company.

According to the detainees’ lawyer, See Chee How, vice-chairperson of Sarawak PKR, the police report had been lodged on the alleged assault, but had not named any suspects. The arrests, he said, were unwarranted and “malicious”. He promised to look into legal action against the police for wrongful arrest.

“I don’t think there’s any evidence. If you look at (the detainees), they’re old, and I don’t think they’re capable of beating people up,” he said wearily.

“It seems (the authorities) purposely want to do this, probably to intimidate the people in the kampung…but as you can see today, I don’t think anybody is worried about this, because to them, land is more important than their own liberty.”

Village chief Nyalu Tampa spoke stoically about his incarceration: “I have rights that I must protect in my village over there, to defend that land. I was not afraid, not worried, because I have done no wrong.”

This crackdown was not an isolated example, See added, pointing out the nearly identical ordeal endured by NCR activist Numpang Suntai and six others in Simunjan in 2010.

Plantation companies demand ‘toll’

United Teamtrade, Memaju Jaya and Tetangga Arkab are oil palm companies awarded provisional licences over 2,200 hectares – claimed by villagers as NCR land – in Melikin.

United Teamtrade’s majority shareholders have been described by whistleblower website Sarawak Report as “assistants” to Awang Tengah Ali Hassan and Naroden Majais, two prominent allies of Sarawak’s chief minister and First Resource Planning Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Awang Tengah and Naroden happen to be Second Resource Planning Minister and Assistant Resource Planning Minister, respectively. Taib personally selects the lucky recipients of provisional licences for oil palm plantations and timber concessions.

Memaju Jaya is owned by the former local state assembly representative for Kedup, Frederick Bayoi Manggie, a senior member of Taib’s party PBB, according to DAP MP for Bandar Kuching, Chong Chien Jen.

Tetangga Arkab is a joint venture oil palm company owned by the state government agency, the Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA).

Villagers supporting the Melikin detainees at the Serian police station waved placards reading “Get rid of corruption, don’t protect criminals”.

Under Sarawak’s Land Code, any native land settled before 1959 qualifies as communal NCR land, a principle upheld by the Federal Court.

The wife of one of the freed detainees explained: “our ancestors came to Melikin in 1955.”

The Land and Survey state director Sajeli Kipli has argued that the Melikin natives cannot claim NCR, because the area had been gazetted a forest reserve by the Brooke administration in 1927 and 1935.

“No disrespect,” retorted the villagers’ lawyer See, “but I doubt whether Sajeli Kipli knows what NCR means. Or he chooses to defy what the courts say…common sense should tell us that if protected forests can be leased for oil palm plantation, what (rubbish) protected forests are those? If we listen to Land and Survey, there should be no NCR in Sarawak, and the natives have to prove otherwise.”

In February this year, United Teamtrade wrote a letter to make an unprecedented demand of ‘toll’ from local villagers using the road on the disputed land to reach their farms: five ringgit “accessibility (sic) fee” per motorcycle, 30 ringgit per car and 50 per truck.

In May, after futile appeals to the state government regarding the plantation companies moving in, 70 villagers camped out in the Land and Survey carpark in Kuching, in an “Occupy” protest.

“Thousands of native landowners – the Ibans, Bidayuhs and Orang Ulu – have their rights encroached upon and (their problems) have remained unresolved,” Chong said at the time.

In late June, Michael Luang, a leading local opponent of the oil palm plantations, found his Hilux four-wheel-drive truck had been set on fire.

The angry villagers claimed the oil palm plantation companies had hired gangsters to scare them. They complained that police reports against the plantation companies had gone unheeded. Yet the police acted immediately following the company’s own police report, filed against unnamed villagers.

During the state election campaign in April 2011, Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters from the Melikin area had blocked PKR campaigners from visiting their longhouse. BN retained the Kedup state seat.

Now, after the plantation companies’ invasion, it appears the villagers have lost trust in the ruling BN – with the parliamentary elections fast approaching.

“We will tell the voters to vote against the Barisan Nasional which is taking away our land and giving it to its cronies. We will get rid of BN,” Augustine Bagat, a spokesperson for the “Occupy Land and Survey” demonstrators, told reporters in May.



  1. […] yet the police sprang instantly into action when the palm oil plantation accused villagers of assaulting its […]

    Pingback by Can palm oil fuel a Molotov cocktail? « Hornbill Unleashed — November 20, 2012 @ 2:21 PM | Reply

  2. They are not police, they all are samseng !!!

    Comment by Mike- Johor — August 23, 2012 @ 11:12 AM | Reply

    • Only a handful are honest cops,the rest having second job as partners to Ah Long,Bapa Ayam and its now official that a crook in sibu is now declared as a legitimate busisnessman by the TOP Cop himself. But how about the wealth he accumulated through illegal means? That too are now considered Legal as well Tuan Police? So the logic here is accumulate wealth by illegal means and turn to the police to clean those illegally gotten wealth. Isn’t that Money Laundering?

      Comment by Brian — August 25, 2012 @ 11:52 AM | Reply

  3. All? Whats the police to villager ratio? Did anyone watch 10,000 b.c.?

    Comment by Anon — August 21, 2012 @ 3:18 AM | Reply

  4. Who is that policeman making the threat?

    Sue him in court. Make an example out of him.

    The people are the master of the police.

    Police must be made aware of that!

    Comment by Will — August 20, 2012 @ 9:30 PM | Reply

  5. One thing we must understand of our policemen. They all makan gaji. As servants they submit to their paymasters and whoever give them fringe benefits. Otherwise how to survive in the ever inflated world. At the sametime paymasters will remain stingy so their kuli will continue to kwantow.

    Comment by edward, m — August 20, 2012 @ 6:23 PM | Reply

    • The police have lost their pride and integrity and hence chosen to be corrupted like their master in BN. They have more than two payrolls, depending what kind of errands they are running.

      Comment by Zainuddin — August 20, 2012 @ 10:53 PM | Reply

  6. The State AG! Where is he? Who is he? What’s he doing?

    Comment by Fairness and Justice — August 20, 2012 @ 5:14 PM | Reply

  7. The police are gangsters in uniforms. As a civil society we shall have zero tolerance for gangsterism either operating in the underworld or in government uniforms. We shall fight them with parang, spears and guns when they threatened the life of innocent rural folks.

    Comment by Augustine Sawei — August 20, 2012 @ 1:11 PM | Reply

  8. best in the world MACC, where are you?

    Comment by MMC — August 20, 2012 @ 11:14 AM | Reply

  9. WAS IT 200 OR 500 ANGRY DAYAKS?


    When lawmen break the law and rule by fear and intimidation and use of violence, the people lose their respect for those in power.

    This is seen in the increasing number of people’s united actions and confrontations with the police who are symbols of “rule of law” and other symbols of oppression of the poor landowners.

    In Sarawak as in Sabah and Malaya, the police are not public servants but private bully boys for those in power. Ironically the people’s taxes are paying these hired guns to oppress them.

    The police are there to uphold the rule of the rich and power so they can continued their abuse of power, raw breaches of human rights, looting and theft of our resources and public funds through corruption.

    Because the rulers can call on their police to quell the people anytime, they have become so emboldened that they brazenly and openly continue their crimes against the state and people despite world wide exposes as in the case of Taib and Najib.

    Their crimes are the only thing about them that is TRANSPARENT to the world!

    Angry Dayaks maintain your rage! To sweep your oppressors from power and stop their crimes you must arise to overthrow them! 200, 500, 5000, is not enough.

    Rise in your hundreds of thousands to sweep away the dark evil that oppresses all of us!

    Comment by ORANG2BANGKIT — August 20, 2012 @ 9:54 AM | Reply

  10. This is another serious blow to the police force which has already been experiencing diminishing public confidence. It is really amazing how competence the police in their duties when police report made by the business cronies of BN against the unfortunate rural folks. Land grabs on NCR lands throughout Sarawak have invited serious social and economic problems to the already poor rural people.

    There is only one option available that is to boot UMNO/BN in the GE13 and wake up rural folks, where ever you are, and dismantle the BN’s fixed deposit. I am pretty sure if Pakatan were to win, it certainly helps to return the lands that are truly belonging to them.

    Comment by Justice Lover — August 20, 2012 @ 9:35 AM | Reply

  11. It is no more in the early 70’s when little children trembled with fright when hearing the mentioned police. What the heck is all this about? Ever did they realise how little knowledge they absolved and equipped with in their heads in term of law and diplomacy. Why should they think highly among themselves so powerfully when adorned in enforcement uniform pack and armed with ammunition. Sarawakians are naturally better educated in their moral sense comparing to the few African nations. How this sort of threats seems to exist and breed in Sarawak is interesting? Even so that arrest could be rightful or wrongful do stay united kaban, strategise your game for you too have the rights to demand for that person/culprit who gave the instructions of the arrest. Hopefully not from an ‘amat’ police of course, in the mention. Shame.

    Comment by miaOwkia — August 20, 2012 @ 7:26 AM | Reply

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