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Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Inspector General of Police Norian Mai have rejected the requests for a meeting with a group of indigenous people from Sarawak.

The group represents the indigenous people of Ulu Baram, Ulu Niah (Miri), Bakun (Belaga) and other areas affected by activities of the Borneo Pulp and Paper Mill as well as other loggers.

"We have come all the way from Sarawak to meet with the government authorities and non-government agencies to seek help for the plight of our people. Unfortunately our requests to meet with the DPM and IGP have been flatly refused," said Nick Kelesau, of Ulu Baram.

Bilong Oyoi, who represents the Penans in Ulu Baram, said that they are not against development.

"We want and need development but what is happening is they are taking away our land and destroying our crops just like that. The government authorities need to see for themselves what is happening in our villages and how we have been victimised when it is our land that is being encroached.

"I call upon the government to come to the village without the kompang and the special treatments to see for themselves our problems," said Bilong, who stated that no elected politician has ever visited the villages which can be easily accessed by roads.

'Seven police reports'

Lengiding ak Guba of Ulu Niah said that when the companies first came in, villagers were promised five acres of land.

"Then they brought the offer down to three and then later to one, we refused to give in to the conditions set as we were asked to move. The police then were brought in and when even that failed to intimidate the villagers, samurai sword-wielding gangsters were brought in.

"We made seven police reports before the fateful day when 19 of our villagers were detained for murder," said Lengiding, who broke down during the press conference.

Her father and brother are among the 19 on trial for the murder of four employees of a contractor company, Vintay Enterprise, said to be hired by Sarawak Oil Palm Company. Lengiding called for a proper inquiry by the government and the police into what actually took place.

"The companies bring in migrant workers such as Bugis and Filipinos. This makes it very difficult for us to talk to them and try to play down the situation.

"Even the animals in the forest reserves are protected from harm but we, people of Malaysia, are treated worse than illegal immigrants. We are only asking for what is ours," said Kelesau.


The group are appealing for:

- The retraction of all licences of companies operating on native customary land and the cessation of all such operations;

- The right to voice their problems, education and health be acknowledged by the government;

- Acknowledgment and guarantee of the right of the people to the native customary land with amendment to Section 5 of Sarawak Land Law 1958;

- The abolishment of Section 90(B) Forest Ordinance 1953 (amendment 1993) which is used to intimidate the indigenous people;

- An inquiry to look into the problems of the indigenous people, such as the alleged rape of an underaged girl in Ulu Baram by a member of the Police Field Force and the case of the 19 people alleged to have committed murder in Ulu Niah; and

- An investigation into, and halt to, the hiring of gangsters by companies to threaten the lives and safety of the villagers.

The group will also be presenting their cases at a conference titled People Before Profits : Asserting the Rights of the Community in Development this weekend[#1] (Victims of development to meet next month[/#], Oct 16).