The Star

Thursday, April 18, 2002

32 longhouse folks held over abduction


MIRI: Thirty-two longhouse folks in Temalak, in the interior jungles of northern Sarawak, have been arrested for allegedly abducting a timber company officer following a logging dispute in areas which they claimed were their native customary land.

The natives, food cultivators from the Penan and Kayan communities, have been brought to the Marudi police station for further investigations.

Marudi OCPD DSP Frederick Liso yesterday confirmed the arrests.

Wan Jawin, a cargo-transporter working in that area, said the villagers were very unhappy that they have been constantly disturbed by outsiders who had entered their area to conduct logging and sawmill activities.

He said the natives could not control their anger anymore as the dispute had dragged on for a long time.

DSP Liso said the 32 may soon be charged with abduction. All of them are living in the area (affected by the timber operations).

"Some of them have been questioned and released on police bail. The others have been remanded pending further investigation," he said, adding that no time-frame has been fixed for them to be charged in court.

On Sunday, these longhouse folks, angry over the prolonged dispute with the company concerned, abducted the officer who is employed by the logging firm.

The villagers forcefully took the officer to their longhouse in the Long Lama district, after they confronted him at the logging site.

The employee was released on Monday after a team of police officers from Marudi town rushed to the area to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

DSP Liso said the employee had been sent to the hospital for a check-up and the police was waiting a medical report on his injuries.

He, however, declined to reveal details on the cause of the incident.

Meanwhile, Sahabat Alam Malaysia field officer for Sarawak, Jok Jau Evong, said SAM felt very concerned over the incident.

"SAM hopes that the relevant authorities will look into the case and find out what had happened.

"The villagers must have been very unhappy or else they would not have reacted in such a manner. Speak to them and find out their side of the story," Jok said, adding that the root cause of the discontentment must be addressed so that it will not happen again.