Did the court released them to avoid exposing embarassing promises that the candidates failed to keep from the election?
Natives from 10 villagers, who had allegedly torched a logging campsite in Tebedu, are planning to take legal action against a timber company for encroachment on their NCR land.
Six Bidayuh villagers, who allegedly torched seven heavy machinery, four lorries and five logging quarters in Tebedu on May 9, were unconditionally released by the magistrate’s court here today.
The six – Bisa Anak Duda, Papai Anak Atin, Barak Anak Kolol, Mani Anak Marin, Karia Anak Daruh and Peter Anak Laiong – from Kampung Mawang, Tebedu, in Serian district were brought to the court at the end of their four-day remand.
A large crowd of family members and village folk working here turned up to show their support for the suspects.
No charge was brought against any of them, the prosecution told the court.
They were arrested on May 14 following a report made by a camp manager, Chen Teck Soon, after the heavy machinery, lorries and logging camps were torched.
Reports alleged that some 500 angry villagers had gone to the campsites and allegedly torched the machinery after their complaints were ignored.
Chen estimated the loss at RM5 million.
Lawyer See Chee How, who represented the natives, said that the natives had lodged numerous police reports on the encroachment of their native customary rights (NCR) land by a timber company and they had also brought up their case with the Tebedu assemblyman, Michael Manyin.
Their complaints, however, had not been taken seriously.
See said that the confrontation could have been avoided if the police and relevant authorities had looked into their complaints and taken action.
Meanwhile, Baru Bian, a noted NCR land lawyer, said that the villagers had instructed him to file a civil action suit against the timber company for encroaching and damaging their ancestral land.
“Before their arrest, the natives came to see me and instructed my firm to file a civil action case against the company. I am waiting for the full details,” he said.
Bian, who is also the Ba’Kelalan assemblyman, said that the natives were also considering suing the police if they had breached the law in arresting them.
The Bidayuhs from the 10 villagers had voted for Manyin during the recently concluded state election as he promised to look into the dispute with the timber company.
Later, they found out that Manyin not only could not help them, he had also accused them of being trouble-makers.
Manyin had reportedly said that the natives had agreed to the lucrative compensation offered by the company and that those whose land was not affected were the ones who caused the trouble.
He said the affected owners received RM40 per sq m in compensation.
Manyin said the group that did not get compensation became angry and mounted a blockade. They also destroyed a timber bridge.
But the villagers, however, claimed that Manyin was lying.
Speaking on behalf of the villagers, Bisa Anak Duda accused Manyin of “insulting and embarrassing” them.
He said the people were not after the money, but wanted to protect their ancestral land and jungle in their area.
Bisa accused Manyin of not telling the truth.