Longhouse folk ‘detain gangsters’ sent to scare them

By Joseph Tawie, Free Malaysia Today

KUCHING:  About 500 Ibans of Rumah Ranggong in Ulu Niah surrounded and “detained” 20 individuals believed to be “gangsters” allegedly sent by a renowned timber concessionaire to intimade and frighten them.

The 20 “gangsters” are allegedly part of a group of 80 infiltrators purportedly sent by an oil palm company, linked to the concessionaire, to not only to frighten the natives but to destroy a blockade mounted by them.

Tau Dali, a spokesman for community, said that on Jan 4, word of the “gangsters” reached the longhouse.

“As they (gangsters) entered the oil palm plantation after midnight on Jan 4, we waited and surprised them. There were about 500 of us.

“The ‘gangsters’ are still inside the plantation and they told us that more will be coming to disturb us. But we are not afraid of them,” said Tau.

Tau said the “gangsters” were sent to intimidate them when they refused to surrender their native customary rights (NCR) land to the company.

Tau named the company as KTS, a very well-connected Foochow company which also controlled timber concessions and newspaper companies.

Tau said that the Ibans were angry with the company for allegedly failing to pay them any dividends and bonus after 10 years of joint venture with KTS.

“What makes us angrier – and we are prepared to die to defend our land – is that our land has been converted by the government to ‘state land’ without our knowledge. They have taken away our rights over the land.

“Luckily, somebody gave us a copy of the lease.

“If our land is taken by the company, where do we go from here?” he asked, adding that the people of Rumah Ranggong have been there for generations.

Bloody incident

He said this was why the natives had mounted a blockade to stop the company and its workers from going into the plantation.

“They (the company) refused to negotiate with us… instead the company sent gangsters to scare us.
“But we are not afraid and we are waiting for them,” Tau said, adding that as long as the problem was not settled, the natives would not dismantle the blockade.

Rumah Busang, a nearby longhouse, was the scene of a bloody incident more than 10 years ago when an oil company sent nine “gangsters” to scare the natives.

In the incident, four were killed and one injured when the native repulsed the attack.