The plight of a group of Iban in Mukah, accused of “illegally collecting fruits” from land that is currently under dispute between them and a private company, has raised a sharp response from the pro-autonomy advocacy coalition Sarawak4Sarawakians (S4S).
Asked to comment on a police report made by the manager of Kenyana Estate in Mukah on Monday, S4S chairman Peter John Jaban replied that it was like claiming one was stealing from one’s own land.
“No one can be accused of stealing fruits from his or her own land, but with that police report, the estate had in effect accused them (Iban) of stealing fruits growing on their own land,” Jaban said.
He also referred to Global Witness, an investigative website, which covered land disputes between the indigenous groups and companies developing plantations in Sarawak.
“The Orang Asal were dismissed by the daughter of a former chief minister and former governor as squatters. That’s what she had told Global Witness in an interview,” Jaban said, adding that the Global Witness programme best illustrates the mindset at work in Sarawak among the elite.
“How can the Orang Asal be described as squatters on their own land?”
The manager, who gave his name only as Yong, had claimed that “the group of up to 30 men and women had entered illegally to collect our company’s oil palm fruits”, reported the Borneo Post.
The manager had also said he had taken the police investigating team to the plantation and both he and the police had seen the group in the act of “illegally” collecting the fruits, which he regarded as “theft”, the Sarawak-based daily reported today.
The estate belongs to Rimwood Pelita (Mukah) Plantation Sdn Bhd, according to the police report.
In the report, Yong had made a few allegations, including that the Iban had erected a blockade outside the estate and had intruded into the estate and collected dozens of tons of oil palm fruits.
He also, in his report, said he had led a police party to the estate to “witness the Iban in the act of ‘illegally’ stealing the oil palm fruits from our estate”, Borneo Post reported.
However, Yong also mentioned in his report that the land occupied by the estate was a matter of dispute in court, as it was considered as part of the Iban’s native customary rights (NCR) land.
Leaving the matter of the “theft and blockade in the hands of the police and the company’s lawyers”, Yong also wrote that Kenyana Estate had a rightful claim to the 10,000 hectares of land occupied by the estate, because it had the legal land title from the state government.
Borneo Post reported that the NCR land dispute began in 2015 when the Iban filed an application in court for the land.
Source : @ The Borneo Post Online