Longhouse folk release ‘captive gangsters’
A leader of a ‘gangster’ group sent to intimidate natives in Ulu Niah has managed to negotiate the release of his members.
KUCHING: Twenty-two “gangsters”, who were captured by the Rumah Ranggong longhouse folk in Ulu Niah on Jan 4, have been released unharmed.
Spokesman for the natives, Tau Dali, said they released the “thugs” yesterday after meeting their leader.
“We talked to their leader named Ah Mong who promised not to disturb us anymore,” he said.
Dali added that the release, however, did not mean that the natives were backing down on their demands .
“We are still mounting a blockade to stop KTS workers from the entering the plantation until Jan 14.
“For the time being, we are in control of the 22,000ha plantation,” Dali said, adding that they had informed the police and the Resident of Miri division of the blockade.
KTS had allegedly sent about 80 people to scare the natives last Tuesday, but only 22 of them managed to enter the plantation. Shortly after, they were surrounded and detained by 500 angry Ibans.
Dali said that the “gangsters” came to intimidate them when they refused to surrender their native customary rights (NCR) land to the company.
He said that the Ibans were angry when the company allegedly failed to pay them any dividends and bonus after 10 years of a joint venture with KTS.
He said what made them angrier was that without their knowledge, the government had allegedly changed the status of their land from NCR to state land.
The landowners had been cultivating the land for generations even before the arrival of the Brooke regime in 1839.
Rumah Busang, a nearby longhouse, was the scene of a bloody incident more than 10 years ago when nine “gangsters” were sent by an oil palm company to scare the natives.
In the incident, four were killed and one injured when the native repulsed the attack.
Meanwhile, Sarawak PKR information chief, See Chee How, said that the non-payment of bonuses and dividends was common in joint ventures between the natives and oil palm companies.
“As they cannot do anything to ask for the payment of bonuses and dividends, they have to resort to blockades,” he said.
Taking away NCR land by the BN government is rampant in Sarawak from Lawas in the north to Lundu in the south, said See, who is a NCR land lawyer.