TATAU, BINTULU (22 November 2000): The 11 longhouses community in upper Tatau continuing with their blockade against the establishment of the pulp mill project of Borneo Pulp & Paper Sdn Bhd (BPP) despite of stern warnings of their possible arrests by the authorities.

Over a hundred native Ibans (men and women) stand vigil day and night to monitor if BPP is carrying out its illegal operation within the project area. They have set up camps on the road leading to the BPP’s pulp mill project site. The blockade remains strong and has gained support from the other neighbouring longhouses who are yet to be affected by the BPP forest plantation project.

Over the week, they have received all kinds of intimidation from the authorities and BPP. The police and government officers who visited the protest site were forcing them to open up the blockade. The police have given warnings to the Ibans to dismantle the blockade and disperse before stern actions will be taken against them. They were even told that their action is illegal and related to unlawful assembly.

On 20 November, the Ibans sent a letter to the Bintulu Divisional Resident Office clarifying their action for putting up the blockade as follows:

  1. They have filed a Writ of Summons [Civil suit No: 22-99-99-III (I)] through representation of Jalang Ak Paran & Anor Vs Goverrnment of the State of Sarawak & Borneo Pulp & Paper Sdn Bhd. Through the said Writ, they believe that it will preserve and protect their rights to their customary lands.
  2. They asked BPP to cease all its operations at the pulp mill project site, which is within their customary land area at the meantime while the court is in the process of fixing the date for hearing/trial for the case.
  3. BPP must completely stop from carrying out its works within their customary land until the court has heard and passed judgement on the said case.
  4. The land on which the blockade is erected is owned by Jalang Ak Paran, their representative in the court action that defends and protects their rights, the said land is within their customary land area.

The copies of this letter were also sent to the Tatau District Office, Tatau Police Station and the BPP Office in Bintulu.