Legal Slap-down for Taib Mahmud
Chief Minister Taib Mamud’s was humiliated by a native Iban victory in the Malaysia Federal Court last November. The Headman Nor anak Nyaway of Sungai Sekabai near the town of Bintulu won a case against the Sarawak State Government who had taken the village’s land for palm oil plantations. The judges ruled that the State of Sarawak has no right to ignore native customary rights and seize such lands.
The defeat of the government in this crucial case, means that hundreds of claims by other native communities should also be successful when they come to court. All these cases are being represented by the top human rights lawyer and new PKR opposition leader for Sarawak, Baru Bian. As Bian explained,
“This victory means that tens of thousands of indigenous people are entitled to claim back their lands and to demand compensation from the Sarawak Government led by BN”.
However, Taib Mahmud does not like to lose. For decades he has got away with illegally over-riding native rights in order to snatch thousands of square kilometres of valuable rainforest and traditional hunting and farming lands from indigenous peoples to give to his own family and cronies, first for timber and then for palm plantations.
So in January, after losing in court he used strong arm tactics instead. He sent in police and bullies to tear down the village in revenge. The gangs pulled down many houses and destroyed villagers possessions leaving them without food or shelter.
One villager said “Taib had no right to defy the court. We have lost our homes and everything we possess. Everyone in Sarawak is in danger from this greedy monster”. Baru Bian acted immediately in this case and has now protected the remaining villagers with another court order banning Taib from attacking the houses. But, while Taib Mahmud and his BN party remains in power it is clear he will do everything he can to ignore the law and to intimidate the poor.