Saturday, 22 August 2009 11:35
BELAGA (Sarawak) - A storm is brewing over a native land in Long Koyan, near here, following an alleged encroachment by a plantation company.
A longhouse headman defending the land has also been summoned to the magistrate's court here to face a charge of theft involving an excavator belonging to the company. He has denied the charge.
The case arose from a police report made by a resident of the Long Koyan longhouse on May 13 acccusing Samling Plantations of encroaching into their native customary rights (NCR) land earlier that month.
Headman stopped an excavator
According to the report, longhouse head TK Nyalang Tahe' stopped an excavator from bulldozing their farm lands and gardens in the NCR land. The report also mentioned that the residents took the excavator keys to stop the workers from further encroachment.
However, unknown to TK Nyalang and his supporters, the plantation also lodged a police report complaining that one of its excavators was stolen and the longhouse head was named the prime suspect.
On July 21 a warrant of arrest was issued to TK Nyalang and he was summoned by the police to surrender himself at the Sungai Asap police station. A large number of his longhouse residentsaccompanied him to the station.
Police bond and the court
They argued that the excavator was not stolen and is still under the care of the plantation workers. They also claimed the keys in their possession were passed to them by the workers. They said this was stated in their police report.
Giving in to the crowd's anger, the police decided not to arrest TK Nyalang. But he was required to sign a police bond and ordered to appear at the Belaga magistrate's court on Aug 21 to answer to a charges of stealing the company’s excavator.
The longhouse head dutifully went to the court at 9am on Friday, to answer the charge under Section 379 of the Penal Code for the alleged crime of theft.
However, when he and his supporters arrived there, court officials told them there was no hearing on that day. The police had apparently not registered the case with the court.
Swift action in favour of company
They then went back to th Sungai Asap police station, a two hours drive from here, to seek a clarfication. The headman has now to wait for the court to call him.
TK Nyalang said he and fellow settlers had made numerous police reports against Samling Plantations but no action was ever taken.
Yet, he added, the police were swift to take action when the company made a police report, which resulted in the charges against him.
'Be neutral and unbiased'
Abun Sui Anyit, advisor of the Sarawak Native Customary Land Rights Network (TAHABAS) said the matter is clearly a dispute of rights to the land.
"The police should have carried out a thorough investigation based on the reports lodged by the two parties in the dispute.
"The police should be neutral and without bias in handling the case. But this was not so, as the police hastily framed TK Nyalang as a criminal by instituting charges against him.