The natives in Niah thought that they are given 30% equity in joint venture with the Government agency SLDB to develop their land into oil palm estate. But in actual fact SLDB sold their land to another company where SLDB holds 40% equity-which they never share with the original owners of the land. After many years the natives, after only receiving an initial payment and nothing else, come to find out the truth -so they set up a blockade against the company to stop their plunder.SLDB is the first of the land agencies set up by the state government over the years-followed by SALCRA and then Pelita.
Frustrated natives seek divine help
MIRI: Two Iban communities of Rh Ranggong and Rh Belili of Jalan Ulu Niah here in Sarawak have set up a “miring” ceremony on the road leading to the JV Plantation operated by a company called Niamas Istimewa Sdn Bhd.
The special prayer ceremony was carried out in the morning with the two communities coming out in full force to participate.
A spokesman for the two longhouses said that in 2001, the Sarawak Land Development Board (SLBD) had entered into a joint-venture (JV) agreement with Bintulu Lumber Sdn Bhd under the new NCR Land Development Concept whereby the management partner who signed the agreement on behalf of the natives will hold 10% equity in the company.
Meanwhile, the operating company will hold 60% equity and the natives will hold 30% equity in the JV company.
“Until today, the only payment that they received was the initial payment which was made when the JV was set up,” the spokesman said.
They have not received any further payment although the JV company has been in production for many years now.
After waiting for so long, the villagers wrote to the company on Dec 12, 2010, asking for clarification on three matters. These were an account on the production of the plantation from 2004 up to 2010, payment of the 30% equity due to the villagers and the status of their NCR land.
The villagers, however, found out in their quest for information that the land had been sold to the company by SLDB in 2008 and thereby extinguishing their NCR over the lands.
Since there was no response to their first letter, the spokesman said the villagers wrote a second letter on Dec 28, 2010, to SLBD giving them seven days to response.
However, so far there has been no response from the company and out of frustrations, the natives had to carry out the last resort to seek divine intervention by “miring”.
Now the villagers are restricting the company from selling the fruits from the plantation and had set up a post to restrict entry into the plantation.
Following that, the natives also alleged that thugs had threatened them which made them apprehensive of what might happen after this.
“Since SLBD had been the management partner in the JV, it should be responsible to protect the rights of the natives instead of selling it away,” said the spokesman.
Now as a responsible government agency, he said, it was only right that SLBD should step in to assist the natives to get back their rights and also the profit due to them under the JV agreement.
So far, he added, the land development minister, who signed the JV agreement on behalf of SLDB and on behalf of the natives, have kept mum on the matter.