Friday, September 26, 2008

MIRI: Village folk from 13 Kedayan-Malay kampungs in northern Sarawak are up in arms over a move by the Sarawak Land and Survey Department and a private developer to evict them from their century-old settlement.

These Kedayan-Malays, who are descendants of the Brunei Malays, are in dire straits after the entire population of 10,000 people from the 13 villages were issued an ultimatum to move out by Monday.

They have received eviction notices from the department, and a letter from the lawyer of the company that will be taking over the land, to vacate their homes by Monday. The affected villages are located some 40km south of Miri City, along the Sarawak Second Coastal Highway near the Miri-Bintulu divisional boundary.

On Saturday, dozens of these affected villagers staged a demonstration at the roadside of the highway starting at 8am to get the attention of passing motorists towards their plight. They unfurled banners and placards denouncing their eviction. The crowd grew as passers-by joined in the protest.

Two elderly Kedayan chieftains, Penghulu Sahar Pusha and Bengkil Bangkol, also joined the demonstration.

They showed The Star the lawyer letters they had received dated Sept 15, this year. The letter states that the villagers must vacate their homes within 14 days from Sept 15. Sahar said the 13 villages affected by the eviction are Kampung Batu Satu Beraya, Kampung Kejapi, Kampung Keluru Jaya, Kampung Orak, Kampung Beraya, Kampung Butir, Kampung Keluru Tengah, Kampung Subok, Kampung Sapaou, Kampung Sebayau, Kampung Tusan, Kampung Uban and Kampung Telud.

“This move to evict us is a huge shock to all of us. We have been living in these villages since 1910. Recently, the State Land and Survey Department and the private developer sent us letters informing us that the land we are living on had been taken over for development purposes.

“We were told that they have plans to develop sawmill and oil-palm plantations. We were informed that 1,800 hectares of our land had already been allocated to a sawmill.

“All the 13 kampungs have a total of 5,500 hectares of land. The total population is about 10,000. This sudden move to evict us is shocking indeed. Where are we to go? This is our ancestral home. We have been here for almost 100 years,” he said when interviewed at the site.

Bengkil said the private developer had already bulldozed four cemeteries in its effort to clear the land to build an access road. The desecrated cemeteries are Kubur Kejapil, Kubur Batir, Kubur Sungai Jalil and Kubur Sungai Payau, he said.

“We have sought urgent meetings with the relevant authorities to help us. We have recently met with the Miri Land and Survey Department officials but they told us we have no rights over the land because we only have provisional leases.

“We protested saying that we have native customary rights because our ancestors have been there since 1910. However, they refuse to withdraw the eviction directives,” said Bengkil.

The affected villagers are now appealing to Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to intervene and stop the eviction.

Source: The Star Online

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