Sunday September 28, 2008
MIRI: Some 10,000 villagers from 13 Kedayan-Malay villages in northern Sarawak are up in arms over a move to evict them from their century-old settlements.
They received the eviction notices from the Land and Survey Department recently asking them to move out by tomorrow.
The villages are located some 40km south of Miri City, along the Sarawak Second Coastal Highway near the Miri-Bintulu division boundary.
Yesterday, scores of villagers staged a demonstration by the road to tell motorists about their plight.
They unfurled banners and placards denouncing the eviction. The crowd grew as passers-by joined in the protest.
Two elderly Kedayan chieftains, Penghulu Sahar Pusha and Bengkil Bangkol, joined in the demonstration.
“This move to evict us is a huge shock. We have been living in these villages since 1910.
“We were told that they have plans to build a sawmill and develop oil palm plantations. We were informed that 1,800ha of our land had already been allocated for a sawmill.
“Where are we to go? This is our ancestral home. We have been here for almost 100 years,” said Sahar.
Bengkil claimed that the developer had already cleared four cemeteries to build access roads.
“We have sought urgent meetings with the relevant authorities to help us. We recently met Miri Land and Survey Department officials but they told us we have no right over the land because we only have provisional leases.
“We protested saying that we have native customary rights because our ancestors have been there since 1910 but they refuse to withdraw the eviction notices,” said Bengkil.
The villagers are now appealing to Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to intervene and stop the eviction.
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