276 Iban families file lawsuit against logging company and government


RITUAL: Ason and Numpang (centre) conducting the ‘miring’ at Kuching High Court. — Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING: The trial of a land case brought by Numpang Suntai and 14 others against the timber logging company and the government commenced yesterday morning.

Numpang and the 14 plaintiffs are representing 276 Iban families from the 15 longhouse communities at Sebangan, Simunjan here.

The lawsuit was filed at Kuching High Court on Nov 1 last year.

The trial is scheduled for a week’s hearing before Judicial Commissioner Ravinthran N Paramaguru.

Named defendants in the civil suit are the timber concession holder Quality Concrete Sdn Bhd, logging contractor Loyal Billion Sdn Bhd, two government-appointed community leaders Penghulu Merum Babu and Ketua Kampung Agu Kaleng together with the director of Forests and the Sarawak State Government.

Counsels See Chee How and Desond Kho represented all the plaintiffs while counsel Liew Tang Chieh represented the first, second and fourth defendant. State Legal Counsel Joseph Chioh represented the fifth and sixth defendant.

A land located at Sungai Sebangan and Sungai Sebuyau, Simunjan has been claimed by the villagers in their statement of claim as Native Customary Right (NCR) and they are the rightful owner of the land.

They claimed that two private companies, Quality Concrete and Loyal Billion, had trespassed their land and there was also illegal logging activities.

They claim the illegal activities had affected their farms and their old longhouse sites.

The plaintiff claimed they discovered their land had been trespassed for the construction of logging roads and extraction of timber from the land (a camp area) which is not a licensed area.

They said Sungei Selabu, Sungai Ijuk and Sungai Sebangan, which are important for the daily needs to the villages, have been found polluted by the logging activities.

They said the polluted and murky water has affected their farms, hunting ground and fishing grounds as well as destroyed their cultivated gardens.

The plaintiffs want the loss and damages suffered to be assessed.

On March, after a full inter parte hearing, Kuching High Court Judicial Commissioner Rhodzariah Bujang granted a further interim injunction sought by the communities against the timber companies to stop all logging and related activities on the land.

The injunction will be in place until the disposal of the case.

About 300 villagers turned up at the court yesterday to give their support.

Earlier, a ‘miring’ ceremony was conducted, led by Ason Bedili, 80, before the trial commenced at 9.30am.

The trial continues today.