Seven arrested in anti-logging protest case

22 Oct 2010

KUCHING: A prophecy came true today when police arrested seven natives and activists in relation to a blockade protest and last Saturday’s fire which gutted a campsite belonging to logging contractor Royal Billion.

Three natives from the Sebuyau/Sebanggan longhouses were arrested last night while four others including Nicholas Mujah who is the secretary-general of the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association were detained at 3pm today when they turned up at the Simunjan police station to assist the three.

Police immediate detained them to help with investigations into the fire.

In an FMT report on Oct 19, natives from the six long houses in Sebuyau/Sebanggan had predicted that they would be blamed for the fire which destroyed a campsite belonging to Royal Billion, a company linked to the politically-powerful Quality Concrete Holdings.

A block of staff quarters, a store, six tractors, two logging trucks and an excavator were among items destroyed in the fire, which the natives have denied knowledge off.

Quality Concrete Holdings has been in the centre of a dispute after the Forest Department issued them a licence to carry out logging activities in the disputed 3,305 hectares of forests which the Ibans claim to be their native customary rights (NCR) land.

When direct negotiations with the company failed, the Ibans took the matter to the police, the district and resident offices, the lands and surveys and finally forest department but to no avail.

Last Friday, the natives decided to take matters into their own hands and erected a blockade to stop the workers from the Royal Billion company encroaching into their land.

Meanwhile the Sarawak Indigenous Community News blogsite reported that “police investigation seemed to be focused on the incidental and peripheral events and not on the main issue of illegal logging and encroachment into the NCR land.”

The blog noted that more than 100 villagers from “numerous long houses in Sebuyau and more” turned up to support those who are arrested.

Also posted on the site was a Sin Chew Daily report which quoted the logging company as saying that it no knowledge of the ‘NCR’s land implicated in the provisional land lease.”

The report alleged that the native protestors had burnt a workers quarters, fired warning shots and caused financial loses to the logger.

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