5 native villagers Papai Ak Atin, Barak Ak Kolol, Mani ak Marin, Karia Ak Daruh and Peter Ak Laiong of Kampung Mawang from Tebedu, Sarawak, are ordered by the Magistrate to be remanded at 4 different police stations in Kuching for 4 days and shall be produced in court on 18 May (next Wednesday) at 10.00am.
According to the investigating officer, Insp Azlan, the 5 Bidayuh villagers are allegedly involved in the torching of workers quarters, bulldozers, tractors and other machinery at a timber camp on May 9.
A police report was earlier lodged by a timber camp site manager Chen Teck Soon who estimated that the timber company is suffering a loss of RM5 million as a result of the fire. None of the 5 villagers was named in the police report but the police officer said that these 5 villagers are members of the joint village action committee formed to defend the NCR land and forests, that photographs and video footages taken at the blockading site showed that at least one amongst the 5 villagers had participated in the protest.
The 5 villagers who were met by SADIA co-ordinator Encik Nicholas Mujah with his colleagues and a group of village folks at the Central Police Station, said that they had received a notice from the police in the evening of 12 May requesting them to go to the Tebedu police station at 9.00am the next day.
Upon arriving at the Tebedu police station, the 5 villagers were brought to Serian police station and onwards separately to Sekama, Tabuan Jaya, Sg Maong and Gita police stations in Kuching and were detained for the night.
No statement was recorded from any of them yet.
See Chee How, who was representing the 5 villagers together with his fellow lawyer Desmond Kho, said that the villagers had lodged numerous police reports on the encroachment of native customary rights land by the timber company but the complaints were apparently not taken up seriously.
When the villagers brought up the matter with their state assembly representatives and state Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister Datuk Michael Manyin Jawong, the minister was reported as saying that the villagers had been protesting for more compensation money.
“Any dispute or confrontation could have been avoided if the police and the relevant authorities have looked into the complaints and take necessary actions,” said See, the newly elected Batu Lintang State Assemblyman.
“I will be meeting the village representatives shortly. They are contemplating legal action against the timber company, to defend their ancestral land rights.”