Monday, March 17, 2008

Shoddy, Cruel and Oppressive Treatment of the Natives of Sarawak by Taib Mahmud

Shoddy, Cruel and Oppressive Treatment of the Natives of Sarawak by Taib Mahmud

Now that our "beloved" CM is on the defensive (or is it offensive?) perhaps the opposition can create some more controversy and see how much he can take. After all, it is not as if he is in the right or the opposition in the wrong.

It was reported not too long ago that the Court of Appeal in upholding a High Court decision that 7 Temuan Orang Asli were customary owners of a piece of state land in Selangor, through which a highway was planned, reprimanded the government for treating them “in a most shoddy, cruel and oppressive manner”.

Judge Gopal Sri Ram said it was sad that “the very authority – the state – that is enjoined by the law to protect the aborigines, turned upon them...” and “It is my earnest hope that an episode such as this will never be repeated”. He will certainly have his hands full if all the cases from Sarawak go to court.

The Judge also said that “the government had breached the fiduciary duties owed to the plaintiffs by the deprivation of their proprietary rights without adequate compensation”.

But this is standard procedure for the government of Sarawak and they claim to have the law on their side. In Sarawak, “native customary rights” after 1st January 1958 are not recognized by law (the State Land Code), thereby making all natives who claim to be practicing such rights after this date as squatters and trespassers on the land which they may have worked on for decades.

The natives of course do not realize this at all and come into conflict with the government whenever “their” land is given to some big company or another to be “developed”.

It was further held in this case that the plaintiffs’ customary communal title attached itself to the Selangor Government’s radical title and that the Selangor Government and the Federal Government were under a fiduciary duty to protect the welfare of the aborigines, including their land rights.

Fiduciary duty? Protect the welfare of the natives? This is something the present government of Sarawak knows absolutely nothing about. Yet the natives still support it.

In view of the many high-handed pronouncements also not too long ago by Sarawak’s Second Minister of Planning and Resource Mismanagement, Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, on the subject of native customary rights land, it is high time that the government be reminded of and take heed of the above court decision and start treating native customary rights landowners less shoddily, less cruelly and less oppressively.

This stupid minister – no doubt speaking as his master’s voice - should also stop blaming NGO’s for instigating native customary rights landowners to go against the government. His master must also be equally if not more stupid to think that he can get away with whatever he wants in the name of the government. In any other country these clowns would probably have been driven from office long ago by a native uprising because of the way they have been treating them.

Yet as Suhakam said, Sarawakians do not complain as much as those in other states in the country. Does this mean that Sarawakians are a satisfied lot, or have nothing much to complain about other than land issues? Or is it because the people generally feel intimidated by their idiot leaders?

How do these idiots expect the natives to feel when they are told that they are merely trespassers and squatters on the land which they have toiled and worked on for generations in the exercise of their customary rights?

“The Penan have no rights to the forest,” said Samling executive James Ho in an interview broadcast on Swiss television not too long ago. Samling is of course a crony company of Taib Mahmud.

Do they expect the natives to feel joy and exhilaration when tens of thousands of hectares of native customary land and even millions of hectares of state land, including forests (protected and otherwise) where the natives hunt and gather produce are given out to huge non-native crony companies to extract timber and for plantations which do not benefit the natives in the least and violate their customary rights?

Yes, for sure the Sarawak state government under the able but unjust feudal leadership of “Payhim” Sri Taib Mahmud treats native customary rights landowners shoddily, cruelly and oppressively. What else is new?

Native customary rights landowners are only compensated for property and crops found or grown on the land but not the true value of the land when their land is forcibly acquired, supposedly for "public" purposes, which often turns out to be crony "private" interests.

Or where their land is declared a “Development Area” by the relevant state agency such as LCDA which is supposed to protect the rights of the native customary rights landowners, they hardly get what they have been promised and have to wait years for dividends which prove to be grossly inadequate, if any.

At the same time, the government does not bother to account to them for the balance of any “land price” paid by joint venture investors and which is purportedly invested by the government on the landowners’ behalves. Where are the dividends from these “investments”?

Can the natives pray that Taib's government will be "transparent" and accountable?

Does Awang Tengah Ali Hassan aka "Awang Tanah" expect the native customary rights landowners to be happy with this situation? Does he really think that the people are more stupid than him to believe that these native customary rights landowners can be told by NGOs or anyone else for that matter what to feel when they are subject to such oppression? Moron!

Why can’t the government really help the natives instead? Does the government really expect the natives who exercise their customary rights to know all the legal provisions relating to them? It is up to the government to educate the natives and regularize any non-compliance with the legalities pertaining to native customary rights on any land, so as not to mislead the natives into continuing to work on land which they cannot claim customary rights over and will forever remain squatters.

If any aspect of the law is oppressive or unfair to the native customary rights landowners, the government should seriously consider amending the law to remove such injustice, instead of continuing to perpetrate and perpetuate injustice and oppression in the name of and hiding behind the law.

Is it so difficult for the government, given its resources and modern technology at its disposal, to survey and record all native customary rights lands or claims? Give all of them titles as provided for in the Land Code. They are entitled to have titles and the government should not say otherwise since their customary rights are recognized by law, even if not by statute.

They deserve to be consulted if the government has any designs on their land, not to wake up one morning to find their crops and gardens being bulldozed and their very longhouses in jeopardy of being demolished by some crony capitalists.

Worse of all, in asserting their rights, they open themselves up to being accused of being “anti-development”, discriminated against, having basic amenities denied them, treated as trouble-makers and even forcibly evicted and/or arrested and jailed for protesting by the police acting at the behest of the traitorous "government" that protects the rich timber companies against the poor natives.

That is, if the gangsters sent in to intimidate them do not do or finish the job. One would have thought that this only occurred during feudal times.

The BIG question also is, "What are the police doing siding with the big logging companies against native customary rights landowners in what are essentially civil disputes which should be settled in the proper forum, the courts?"

This is clearly an abuse of police powers.

Such gross abuse of power seems to be accepted as normal practice and procedure by the cowardly elected purported “peoples’ representatives”. Not a whimper of protest, not a finger lifted to help, instead more often than not these elected representatives are themselves part of the oppression.

Does a fair and just government need to conduct the business of government in such a shoddy, cruel and oppressive manner?

Undoubtedly not, but then we are not dealing with a fair and just government here. This government is a corrupt and inept government masquerading as one which has the interests of the people at heart. It is cruel, oppressive and heartless.

Do the people of Sarawak, especially the natives exercising their customary rights, deserve such shoddy treatment by their government? Perhaps it is high time that this Chief Minister and his cronies were given the boot (Pak Lah take note) or taken to court for dereliction of their duty. Oops, I forgot, Pak Lah is the BOSS! Is Taib Mahmud then just one of his macais?

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