Extracted from The Star, 5 July 2002

Natives fail to get injunction against loggers


MIRI: About 200 native longhouse folk from Balingian district in central Sarawak failed to stop two timber companies from conducting logging activities in a 3,550ha forested region, which they claim is their ancestral land.

The longhouse folk from Rumah Juti, Rumah Demong, Rumah Tawan and Rumah Mulok in Sungai Bawan failed to obtain an interim injunction at the Sibu High Court against timber firms Lien Ho Sawmill Bhd and Esteemac Timber Sdn Bhd.

Justice Clement Skinner dismissed their application with costs yesterday after hearing submissions by Harrison Ngau Laing, counsel for the natives, and Dr Chew Peng Hui, who represented the defendants.

He ruled that there was no justification for the interim injunction to be granted because it would be unfair to the defendants and cause them to suffer heavy losses.

The natives, led by plaintiff Juti anak Maga, 54, who is a longhouse chief, had claimed that the issuance of a timber licence by the state government to the two firms had violated their native customary land rights.

They claimed that the area included in the logging licence covered a forest area of 3,550ha an area they claim had been used by their families for various customary practices since the days of the British White Rajahs.

(The logging licence granted to the two timber firms covers an area of 46,000ha, including the disputed 3,550ha.)

In their application for the injunction, the plaintiffs claimed that they had never received any notice from the government authorities indicating that their native customary rights over the disputed area had been revoked.

They claimed that logging activities in the area would deprive them of their daily livelihood as they depended on the forests for their survival.

Ngau said the natives would appeal against the decision.