Iban land activists detained for ‘gang robbery’
Tony Thien | Jan 23, 09 11:46am
Three Ibans, actively involved in a struggle to keep a plantation company out of their Native Customary Rights (NCR) land, have been detained under the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 for suspected gang robbery.
The three are members a longhouse chief’s family and include a young mother.
They are presently being held in a police station in Bintulu. Under the ordinance they can be detained for up to 60 days while police continue with investigations.
In an appeal letter to the inspector-general of police and other relevant authorities, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president, S.M. Mohamed Idris, called on the authorities to immediately release the trio – Bunya Ak Sengoh, Marai ak Sengoh and Melati Ak Bekeni – if the police do not have any strong evidence against them.
“We regard their arrest under the emergency ordinance as strange and against human rights. It is an action that is most unfair and injust.
Land dispute with BBC Estate VII
“As far as we are aware, such emergency laws should only apply to illegal activities and serious crime that threaten national security and peace,” he added in the letter made available today by SAM Sarawak Co-ordinator Jok Jau.
Jok Jau told Malaysiakini that initially seven, including a child, were picked up by police near their house in Batu Lapan in Bintulu on Dec 26, 2008 following a report of a gang robbery in town.
Three other people, believed to be foreigners, were also arrested separately.
Among the Ibans arrested on Boxing Day and remanded in police custody were Bunya Ak Sengoh, Marai Ak Sengoh, Elizabeth Ak Sebi, Melati Ak Bekeni, Roland Ak Jau, Spencer Ak Jampi and Victoria Gundu Ak Marai.
“Until today, the police have failed to find any evidence to charge them. We find no reason for the arrest,” the Marudi-based SAM co-ordinator said.
He said Spencer was released on Jan 7, Roland and Elizabeth were released on Jan 14 but Bunya, Marai and Melati were re-arrested on Jan 15 under the emergency ordinance.
Tuai Rumah Sengoh from Sg Pinyo, Pandan in Kemena and his people have been actively defending their NCR land from encroachment by a plantation company. The case has also gone to court.
Call for probe into detention of trio
The Iban chief is the father of Bunya and Marai and Melati is his daughter-in-law.
“Sengoh has a land dispute with BBC Estate VII Sdn Bhd at 8th Mile Bintulu Road,” Jok Jau said.
Meanwhile, in his appeal letter to the Malaysian human rights organisation, Suhakam, Tuai Rumah Sengoh Ak Sabang called on Suhakam to conduct an immediate investigation into the detention of the trio under the emergency ordinance. It was done without any justification whatsoever, he added.
He said they were initially held under Section 117 of the Penal Code from Dec 26, 2008 until Jan 14, 2009 on suspicion of being involved in a series of gang robberies in Bintulu and other places.
On January 15, 2009, the trio were detained under the emergency ordinance while the rest were released on police bail.
He denied any member of the family had been involved in any of the activities as alleged and that he believed the action against his family members had resulted from the many reports he had made to the police regarding the encroachment into their NCR land by the plantation company.
I don’t think these Ibans are capable to commit a gang robbery. We have not hear of any Iban involvement in gang robbery this far. What do they rob in the jungle?