5. Sebatu-Suai illegal land clearing
The 110 families of Sebatu-Suai, in the Miri Division is in the process of filing for a court injunction to stop plantation company from further carry out work on their NCR land.
Since July 1996, these 110 Iban families at Sebatu-Suai have been struggling to protect their NCR land from being bulldozed and turned into an oil palm plantation by a joint-venture company between the Sarawak State Government and Tradewinds Plantation Services Sdn Bhd of West Malaysia.
Johnson Enterprise, Tradewinds contractor, had initially sent the local residents a letter offering to buy their land at RM100/ per acre. However, this was met with strong rejection by these 110 families. Nevertheless, Johnson Enterprise continued its field clearing work without the affected peoples’ consent.
A series of community action to stop the destruction of their crops and land have been done by the people since the beginning, including:
complaint lodged with the District Officer and requested for official intervention on 17th Sept.1996;
held ‘Miring Bebuling Menoa’ ceremony according to Adat Asal (traditional customs) on 3 Dec.1996 and at the same day withheld company’s bulldozer and sent it to Batu Niah Police Station hoping to halt further damage to their land;
lodged police report on the damaged of their property caused by the plantation company on 7 Dec.1996;
gathering of 60 persons at their ‘temuda’ (communal land) to stop the workers from continuing field work and withheld bulldozer and later submitted the key to the police station on 16 January.1997.
Instead of looking into their issue, the authority sent a troop of policemen , about 15 in number, on 17 Jan.1997 to one of the longhouse, Rumah Junit, and remanded 5 persons for 10 nights at the Miri police station for investigation and later charged them for disturbing peace.
They were released on self-bail of RM1000/- each. Later, the Magistrate bonded them over for good behaviour.