Extracted from Malaysiakini
Ibans want compensation for damages to graves
The Ibans in Aping, Pantu in Sri Aman are seeking financial
compensation from a plantation company linked to a state-owned agency for
damage caused to their ancestral graveyard.
A large and sacred burial ground of great historical significance at the foot of Bukit Tungal, the so-called landing point of Iban settlers from the north across Indonesian West
The existence of the 8ha Pendam Angkong, as the locals call it, has been traced back more than two centuries ago to the first settlement of migrant Ibans in this part of Pantu from Lubok Antu after crossing the border.
Last year, bulldozers said to belong to Tetangga Akrab Pelita (Pantu) Sdn Bhd came and cleared the forests where the burial ground is sited, damaging many tajau (vases) and other monuments placed on top of graves, according to Tuai Rumah (village chief) Christopher Ambu, 67, of the nearby Kampung Aping Dadak.
sergeant formerly with 1st Malaysian Rangers, Christopher held back tears as he
and five other headmen from nearby villages told Malaysian Human Rights
Commission (Suhakam) chief in
He related at the meeting held at Suhakam office in Kuching how large-scale commercial plantation activities had badly damaged their burial grounds when they called at Suhakam office in Kuching on Thursday.
He said if not for the timely action of the Ibans, a lot more damage would have been caused to the grave site described as the indai ke semua pendam (mother of all graveyards) because of its historical importance to the history of the Iban community in Aping.
The plantation company admitted they were wrong and agreed to put it right. It paid for expenses to hold a miring (an Iban ceremony) to seek forgiveness, according to Iban customs, for the disturbance.
top senior government officials from Sri Aman, including the Resident, District
Officer, the company’s representatives and the villagers.
Christopher (second from left) told malaysiakini that it took a while even to convince some government officials of the existence of the historical graveyard as it is within a jungle area and the graves are between trees with many unmarked, except for those of the rich where the tajaus and other monuments are placed on top.
The Bukit Tunggal graveyard now caters to the needs of two villages in Aping and Christian Ibans are now buried in new sites nearby.
According to the Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak, the desecration of a graveyard is a very serious offence in the adat or customs of the Iban.
The Ibans also asked the company to pay compensation of RM300,000 for the extensive damages caused to the graveyard, including the destruction of vases, monuments and trees.
"But up to now the company has not responded," according to Jacob Imang, a resident of Aping. "Hence, we’ve approached Suhakam to ask for their help to highlight our grievances."
Their grievances do not end there as other smaller graveyards such Pendam Aping, Pendang Mansau, Pendam Aban and Pendan Pulau Tekalau are all already surrounded by planted oil palms, with no room left for expansion.
"Where do they expect us to bury the dead now?" a tuai rumah asked. "Even access to these graveyards is going to be blocked."
Dr Ritom said since the company concerned had apparently admitted its fault, what was left was the question of compensation that the natives had sought.
He said Suhakam would take up the matter with the relevant authorities.