The livelihood of native communities in Limbang, Sarawak, is being threatened by a politically well-connected timber company. It’s really the last stand for Along Sega, a much-respected local Penan leader and the local communities.
The Long Sebayang timber camp in Upper Limbang
Activists and one media report say the company involved in this area is Lee Ling, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Quality Concrete. Among the directors is Raziah @ Rodiah Mahmud, sister of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud. She has a 2.03 per cent direct stake in Quality Concrete.
According to Quality Concrete’s 2010 Annual Report, its substantial shareholders are:
1. HSBC Nominees (Asing) Sdn. Bhd.
HSBCIT (S) Ltd for Entrequest Holdings Limited (Direct) 10,500,000 shares 18.12%
2. Cahaya Besi (Sarawak) Sdn. Bhd. (Direct) 9,329,900 16.10%
3. Datin Ha Ai Ing (Direct) 7,001,000 12.08% (Indirect) 11,008,000 18.99%
4. Dato Tiang Ming Sing (Direct) 8,483,000 14.64% (Indirect) 9,526,000 16.43%
Cahaya Besi has an issued share capital of RM500,000 with Mek binti Lihi and Juss bin Mohamad, both from Kampong Tanjong Parang in Kota Samarahan, holding 50 per cent each. Cahaya Besi’s business address is on the 7th floor, Wisma Bukit Mata Kuching, along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman in Kuching. Lee Ling Timber Company is also located on the 7th floor. Quality Concrete is located in the same building on the second floor.
An international company search on Entrequest Holdings Ltd did not reveal who owned the firm.
This is an alert I received:
Report of 26 June 2010, Blockade in Long Sebayang.
Today, Penans from 10 communities are unified in Long Sebayang, two communities are settled Penans, eight are nomadic. The big chief Along Sega in charge of the 10 communities is present.
On the site, the Long Sebayang village is situated just around 4km from the camp of a timber company. Petronas, the natural gas and petrol company is also present; they are actually building the office and worker houses for a future gas pipe line going through the area. The Penans and Petronas share a good relationship here: the office and houses are built next to the village; Petronas apparently pays RM2,000 per month to rent the land of Penan. Petronas has also given the contract for the wood they need to build the camp to the Penans instead of the timber company and after three years, when their work here will be finished they will give all the buildings and materials, such as generators or chainsaws to the Penan community. All this means that for Petronas (which is owned by Malaysian government), the owners of the land are the Penans.
The timber company doesn’t agree… it says it has the titles for the land (and the wood) is its property for the next 60 years (the duration of the licence).
The Long Sebayang community has settled here for four generations – a long time before the company arrived – and they used to live in the area as nomads ever since. According to the timber company, the nomads are always moving so they can’t have a property, but the reality is that the nomads move but on a defined territory so they know what is their land and what is not, and their territory is the one that the timber company and others are occupying today.
The blockade was set up after having mentioned in a letter to the government, the companies and the police that the communities wanted to have a meeting to talk about their land rights, to get them back, or at least to receive another area where they can be sure to preserve their traditional life-style. And if they have no meeting they will set up some blockades.
For now, more than two weeks later, they have received no news from the police, the government or the companies but a violent aggression on one Penan …
The communities don’t want to hear about monetary compensation from the companies or the government;… they need to create their own commercial activity. For this purpose, they have asked the timber company to use their bulldozer to create a fish pond but the timber company responded that the Penans don’t have the right to create it because the land doesn’t belong to them; the land belongs to the timber company and it owns the titles.
The situation in the area is getting worse: now there are around 10 blockades, 40 per cent of them from Penan, and 60 per cant are from Kelabit (against the gas pipe). In Long Sebayang the children are not sent to school any more: to reach school, they need to leave the village alone for one day and they are scared to come back and find it in ruins. They are used to this kind of behaviour from from the companies…
Access to medical care is also nearly impossible for them: the closest hospital is four hours away by four-wheel drive … There was the case of a young Penan father, in a state of agony, totally unconscious, and whimpering for each breath, whom we had to bring urgently to hospital after our visit to Long Sebayang. This happened certainly because of a ‘non alimentation’ that the people doing the blockade have to withstand. This man had eaten nearly nothing for the past two weeks and sometimes nothing at all for several days.
No NGO gave support to them with money or food, no local press covered what happened. If you go to the first village down the mountains out of the jungle, just three hours driving from Long Sebayang, the people don’t even know what is happening up there. Only some local people support them but it is not enough to feed every day the population of 10 villages united as one.
Today the Penans from this area are like kept as ‘otages’ in their own place, not having the right to create commercial activities, being spoiled off their land, and not being able to leave their village for just less than one day.
They are asking urgently for food support from NGOs as well as media and press support because they are determined to keep the blockades until they receive a good resolution of their land issue.