Extracted from Malaysiakini
Villagers mount barricades against timber firm
Villagers from three Iban longhouses in Ulu Sungai Pandan, Bintulu
have resorted to setting up roadblocks to prevent a government-linked
plantation company from encroaching into their native customary rights (NCR)
The villagers decided to erect the barricades of logs on Oct 15 after the authorities failed to act on eight police reports they lodged against Grand Perfect Sdn Bhd, a consortium of three large timber companies, for allegedly encroaching into their NCR land.
The police promptly dismantled the barricade on Oct 19 following
complaints by the company. Unperturbed, the villagers set up another barricade
four days later, complete with banners sternly warning
outsiders against encroaching their land.
It is learnt that Grand Perfect Sdn Bhd was commissioned by the state government to plant up to half a million hectares of acacia mangium, for a state-owned pulp and paper project which is supposed to be the largest in Southeast Asia.
Land earmarked for the project includes state land, NCR land, shifting cultivation land and conservation land. This has caused growing number of conflicts with native landowners as tree plantation projects are being expanded across the Bintulu region.
Bintulu police chief Sulaiman Abdul Razak confirmed that complaints from both sides were received and have been investigated.
According to Sulaiman, the Land & Survey Department said that the villagers had no rights on the land which Grand Perfect Sdn Bhd was trying to gain access to.
Sulaiman said that the police had visited the longhouses, however
no arrests were made over the barricades.
He hoped that the natives would hold discussions with the logging company rather than resulting to confrontation, adding that the villagers can go to court to prove their claims over NCR land.
Meanwhile, the village chief of the affected longhouses told malaysiakini that apart from NCR land violations, the tree planting activities are also believed to cause contamination in drinking water.
Natives in many parts of the Bintulu region have complained about pollution in river systems blamed on increased logging and plantation activities. Most longhouses are situated near rivers.