Ibans are angry at the SAO for issuing eviction notice illegally, mulls legal action
ULU NIAH, 27 June – About 700 people Ibans from Rumah Sigan (formerly known as Rumah Umpor) in Ulu Niah, Miri Division held a ‘miring’ ceremony in front of their longhouse yesterday protesting against the illegal issuance of an eviction notice by a Sarawak Administrative Officer (SAO) from the Niah-Suai Sub-District Office.
The Ibans were angry with the way the SAO abused his position as a government servant to serve them with the eviction notice on behest of an oil palm plantation company, Medan Mestika Sdn. Bhd. who is currently in dispute with the longhouse community with regards to the latter allegedly encroaching into the native customary land of Rumah Sigan.
After the ceremony, the longhouse representatives led by their headman, TR Sigan Anak Inai went to the Batu Niah Police Station to lodge a report on the alleged abuse of power by the SAO. They are also planning to take legal action against the SAO.
When met at the police station, TR Sigan said that they will ignore the said notice and continue to stay at their longhouse.
“In the event that the company or the government forced us to leave our longhouse, we have no other place to go and that leaves us no choice but to squat on any government building until the government provides us land for us to build our new home,” said TR Sigan.
According to Ramuold Siew, President of The Sarawak Native Customary Rights Land Network (TAHABAS), “The SAO has no authority to issue eviction notices as the authority lies with the Superintendent of Land and Surveys.
At the moment no eviction notice was issued the Superintendent of Lands and Surveys Miri Division.
“He is also abusing his office by using the Sub-District Office’s letterhead to issue the notice,” added Siew.
In the eviction notice, the Ibans were told to vacate their longhouse within 14 days from the date of the notice failing which legal action will be taken against them. The reasons given for the eviction notice were, the residents of Rumah Sigan failed to turn up for a dialogue with the company on 15 May 2012 and that on 27 May 2012 the Miri High Court had decided to dismiss the legal action brought by the longhouse residents against the Superintendent of Lands and Surveys Miri Division and 2 others.
However, on 22 June 2012, the longhouse community responded to the eviction notice saying that they disagree with the said notice and will not vacate the area as their are currently appealing the Miri High Court’s decision and that no order was made by the court to order them to vacate the area.
BRIMAS condemns the action of the SAO to issue an eviction notice against the Ibans of Rumah Sigan as is a gross violation of their human rights. Every human being has the right to live and have shelter over their heads and this is enshrined in the Federal Constitution as well as in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The issue of the Ibans from Rumah Sigan claiming Native Customary Rights (NCR) on the area has yet to be resolve, therefore the SAO cannot arbitrarily issue an eviction notice until all the longhouse community’s appeal process has been exhausted.
The Iban community of Rumah Sigan have occupied the area in Sungai Sah, Ulu Niah since 1946. The headman that first brought the community to settle in the area was Remang. When Remang passed away, Umpor Anak Lunsa became the headman and he was responsible in leading his people to take legal action against the encroachment of Medan Mestika Sdn. Bhd, which was filed at the Miri High Court in 2008.
Medan Mestika, a subsidiary of WTK has been issued with a Provisional Lease (PL) by the State Government for Lot 85 Sawai Land District in 2000 to develop an oil palm plantation. In the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, it recognises the existence of NCR claims by the Ibans residing there and that the company needs to deal with significant NCR land issues to develop the area.
Press Statement released by:
Executive Director, BRIMAS