Published: Friday January 22, 2010 MYT 8:08:00 PM
Updated: Friday January 22, 2010 MYT 8:09:14 PM
Longhouse folk up in arms over demolition
By STEPHEN THEN
MIRI: More than 100 longhouse folk armed themselves with parang (machetes) and formed a human shield to stop state Land and Survey Department personnel from demolishing their homes.
The face-off came about after the department maintained that the houses, numbering more than 80 in Sebauh in Bintulu Division, were illegally built on state land while the natives argued that they have Native Customary Rights over the land which belonged to them for centuries
Since Monday, the department has destroyed 25 houses and the rest in Sungai Sekabai in the Sebauh sub-district, 250km from here, are on the verge of being bulldozed.
Rumah Nyawai longhouse chief Tuai Rumah Nor Nyawai led more than 100 angry villagers from his settlement Friday to set up a blockade across a road leading into the farmland.
The villagers armed themselves with parang and set up a temporary station on the roadside to man the blockade.
Sarawak Indigenous Natives Land Rights Association (Tahabas) president Michael Jok made an urgent visit to the site with human rights lawyers.
“I appeal to the state government to intervene and stop the demolition work immediately. The natives are desperate and they have said they will not hesitate to use whatever means to stop any further demolition.
“The natives are angry as they have already filed a court case against the department and a private developer who had earmarked the area for development.
“The department should not be demolishing the homes since the case is pending,” he said.
Sarawak Rural Native Women’s Association president Hellan Empaing also called for an immediate halt to the demolition operations.
The Bintulu Land and Survey Department had issued a statement and said the department had received directives to tear down illegal dwellings in the Sebauh and Tatau sub-districts.