Sarawak Report can reveal that four head gangsters, who were caught after the discovery of an enormous illegal arms cache at the disputed logging and plantation concessions at Melikin, were freed by police on instructions from ministers!
Since their release there has been a further series of vicious attacks on local people, whom the gangsters have been intimidating for many months, on behalf of two companies granted controversial licences on Native Customary Rights lands in the area.
The companies, United Teamtrade Sdn Bhd and Memaju Jaya Sdn Bhd, both have ownership ties to powerful BN political figures in Sarawak. These include Taib’s planning deputy, Awang Tenggah; the state Minister for Entrepreneur Development, Naroden Majais, and the former local YB, Frederick Bayoi.
Information on the shocking decision to release the armed thugs was passed to Sarawak Report after the latest spate of assaults on native customary rights landowners, including the hospitalising of a local Tua Rumah Sujau, who was rammed off his motorbike and then beaten with iron bars and sticks.
In a related attack on October 15th, a car carrying local people was shot at three times.
Political interference caused the arrests to be kept secret and the men freed
According to our politically connected sources, the four Melikin-based gangsters were initially arrested on September 30th, after police seized a major arms cache from two workers camps in the Melikin concession areas.
The cache included illegal fire arms, explosives, knives and martial arts weapons, according to police statements at the time.
Accordingly, Sarawak Report has been informed, police officers recommended that these dangerous characters should be remanded in custody pending trial.
The Department of Public Prosecutions agreed that the remand request should be recommended to the courts.
Astonishingly however, the Federal Home Ministry over-ruled the request!
Reports are now coming in of sustained intimidation in the area and the situation appears to have escalated out of control with the gangsters starting to compete themselves for timber in the area, outside even of the concessions controversially granted to the logging concerns.
Locals say that the racketeers have been purchasing wood from the villages’ pulau galau communal forest areas with the help of certain Tuai Rumah, who have been known to work with logging companies in the past.
The impact of this illegal logging has caused the destruction of the local jungle and foraging area and the dramatic pollution of the local river and water supplies for the native people.
Kuching PKR Assemblyman Chee See How has now issued a statement on behalf of villagers for whom he is conducting a native customary land rights case, contesting the plantation licences on their native lands:
“I am particularly concerned with the security situation in Melikin, of which innocent farmers including Tuai Rumah Sujau was caught in the cross fire. The feuding parties were competing for the timber resources from the villages friendly with the plantation companies”
“Due to the impending trial at the High Court in Kuching, where 17 villages are seeking declaration of native customary rights over a portion of the plantation lease land, the state government should suspend the operations over the disputed area to avert and prevent the sustained and escalating tension between the plantation companies and the local villagers while containing the clashes of rival gangs over the timber resources.”[YB See Chee How, Nov 5th press statement]
With the casualty list escalating in this battle and gangsters stripping out even the pulau galau it is even more shocking that the local Serian Police force in the area has reportedly evaporated from the situation.
Locals believe that senior police figures have been co-opted by the logging companies and the gangsters to enforce their interests, rather than the interests of law and order.
The powerful political figures behind the companies give strength to such arguments.
While a growing list of blameless villagers have ended up in hospital, the only arrests that have taken place locally have been of various villagers falsely accused by the logging companies of various crimes, for which they were later found not guilty.
“After 7pm the police completely disappear from our area”, one contact has reported. “Then the lorries all come out carrying the timber, under cover of darkness”.
Questions for Malaysia’s Home Ministry
With matters rapidly moving out of control in Sarawak, in the face of a rash of provocative injustices perpetrated against the Dayak peoples’ basic rights, key questions arise on how the police are being directed to keep law and order.
Why is it that there are no police on the ground to protect villagers against gangsters in Melikin, whilst over in Sungai Sebatu, Suai near Miri a large contingent of police was gathered from all over the state to arrest villagers harvesting oil palm on their own native lands?
After the arbitrary rounding up by police on November 1st, eight native people, including a 9 year old and and an 11 year old boy were left to languish for days in jail in Miri, for allegedly picking fruit on what they claim is their own native customary land, illegally alienated by the state government.
Once again in this case the police have intervened on behalf of the plantation companies over a matter that is being legally contested in the courts.
The police have acted in such a way, even though time and again the state government and plantation companies have been losing similar court actions after the laws permitting such alienation of native lands were ruled to be unconstitutional.
So, why are the police harassing natives in these cases, instead of preventing the powerful logging and plantation companies from sending in gangsters and bullies to enforce illegal concessions granted by the Chief Minister to his cronies?
Likewise, why are scores of riot police confronting peaceful Penan men, women and children at the Murum Dam site and shooting guns over their heads, rather than getting down to Melikin, Serian and doing a real, honest job of sorting out the tattooed thugs, who are attacking local people and stealing wood from their pulau galau?
Is the Federal Government now so completely in hock to Taib Mahmud and the rigged seats that he delivers to keep BN in power, that it cannot now even go about their basic job of keeping law and order?
Sadly, in Sarawak this appears to be the case.
The police are being used to protect Taib’s thieving cronies as they break the law and use thugs and gangsters against the common people.