Oil Palm Company vs Ibans: On Land Rights in Sarawak

Tuai Rumah Pee Millo | Credit: BRIMASO

Tuai Rumah Pee Millo | Credit: BRIMAS

Oil palm company fails to get natives evicted through court, status quo of natives maintained.

8 February 2011

MIRI – The Miri High Court on 28 January 2011 ruled that the oil palm company, Butrasemari Sdn. Bhd. do not have exclusive rights to the land known as Lot 97 Sawai Land District, located at Suai, Miri Division, therefore they do not have the right to evict the natives even though the company argued that it was issued with a Provisional Lease (PL).

At the same time, the Iban natives of Rumah Pee Millo also cannot claim all the land within the same area as their native customary rights (NCR) land as they had only settled there in the 70s. The status quo of the natives to settle in the said area is still maintained pending the decision from the State Government.

The High Court is in view that the said company cannot claim exclusive rights over Lot 97 Sawai Land District, just by virtue of having a PL because the issuance of the PL is subjected to the requirements in Section 28 of the Sarawak Land Code, whereby a survey has to be completed before the State Government can alienate the said land to the said company.

The High Court is also in view that the natives do not have NCR over the said land as they only moved into the Suai District in the 70s from Sarikei Division. The State Government has until today have yet to decide on their status in occupying the said area, even though they were encouraged to move by the Government at that time.

Tuai Rumah Pee Millo’s grandfather, Penghulu Andok Anak Mut was killed by communist terrorists in 1974 in Sarikei. Because of the communist hostilities going on in the Sarikei area at the time, Pee Millo’s father, Datu Anak Andok made a request to the Government to move to Suai.

On the same year, and with encouragement from the Resident of the Sarikei Division Datu and his followers moved and settled at Sungai Sebalayau, Suai.

In 2005, Butrasemari was issued with a PL for Lot 97 Sawai Land District and the land dispute started.

In 2008, the residents of Rumah Pee Millo was ordered by the court to vacate the land as the said company got an interlocutory injunction which not only prohibits but also requires the residents of Rumah Pee Millo to vacate the said land.

This prompted the residents of Rumah Pee Millo to stage a sit in at the Miri Residents Office as they have no other place to go.

After hearing the complaints and concerns of the natives, the Miri Division Resident together with the District Officer and the Officer in-charge of the Police District advised the natives to return to their longhouse and assured them that they still can remain and farm in the said land until a decision can be made by the higher authorities in Kuching regarding their status.

However, until today the residents of Rumah Pee Millo are still waiting for the decision from Kuching and the land dispute between the said company and the natives will continue.

Harrison Ngau | Credit: BRIMAS

Harrison Ngau | Credit: BRIMAS

Harrison Ngau Laing, the counsel representing Tuai Rumah Pee Millo and Lim Khim Boon, First and Second Defendant respectively said, “Our State Government has failed in their fiduciary duty to safeguard the interests of its own people.”

According to Harrison, Butrasemari is a subsidiary of Ta Ann, which is one of the top five biggest companies in Sarawak dealing in timber and plantation activities.

Ta Ann’s Executive Chairman is Datuk Abdul Hamed Sepawi, a billionaire who is also a cousin to the Chief Minister and also Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) Treasurer General.

“Why can’t Ta Ann, which has already owns thousand of hectares of land throughout Sarawak spare some land for the poor natives to make a living?”, asked Harrison.

He added further, “The State Government has got their priorities wrong, whereby they are enriching the rich and making the poor even poorer.”

When met outside the court, Pee Millo complained that the government is not practicing what they are preaching.

“Our Prime Minister is always trumpeting the 1Malaysia, Peoples First, Performance Now slogan, but this is not the case for us,” he said.

“Our people are not first but placed last in the government’s priorities,” Pee Millo lamented.

Butrasemari as the First Plaintiff is suing Pee Millo and Lim Khim Boon for allegedly trespassing into Lot 97 Sawai Land District.

Justice Dato’ Zulkifli bin Bakar delivered the ruling.

Press Release issued by:
Mark Bujang
Executive Director, BRIMAS

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7 Responses to Oil Palm Company vs Ibans: On Land Rights in Sarawak

  1. Pingback: Another NCR Land case Taib lost! | Change We Must

  2. June Rubis

    Yes, the WI report received a lot of press, mostly international media (naturally). On the local front, there were calls to sue WI http://xrl.us/bihnq8; the M'sian gov was skeptic over the report http://www.thesundaily.com/article.cfm?id=57277

    Report widely covered by Reuters, AFP, AP, UPI, NY Times, LA Times, the Sun Daily, Jakarta Post.

  3. Clarissa Lee

    Am reading this about Sarawak's conversion of forests and peatlands to palm plantations. http://www.wetlands.org/Portals/0/publications/Re

    Also, I think this issue was highlighted in some other foreign environmental watch site somewhere else but I forget where. Could not locate it for the moment.

    I love playing with kml data…heh :P

  4. Pingback: Another NCR Land case Taib lost! | Change We Must

  5. June Rubis

    Happy to see LoyarBurok highlighting Orang Asal issues from East Malaysia – this fight needs to be more mainstreamed, the more people know what's going on, the more they will care.

    For Pee Millo and his community, the struggle continues.

  6. mind-boggling

    sad and shameful.

  7. aca

    now you all know whats 1Malaysia in Sarawak.