From The Broken Shield
In a paper presented to the symposium, Paul Raja, a leading NCR land lawyer, said that in the event of conflicts between the natives and timber companies, the natives could not do much because the companies had the entire government machinery to support them.
“The natives are only watching helplessly the timber companies plundering their timber wealth found in their native customary rights lands. They can’t do much.
“The police are always siding with the companies in the event of conflicts. The natives who lodge reports of abuse and trespass on their lands are either turned away from the police stations or no action at all is taken by the police,” Paul said.
On the other hand, when the companies made police reports, most of the time, false reports of purported criminal intimidation, the police sprung into action instantaneously and arrested anyone mentioned in the reports.
“This is a common tactic used by timber and oil palm companies to subdue any resistance from the natives. This has become so common that the natives are reluctant to lodge police reports against companies encroaching into their lands because they are well aware that lodging police reports do not make any difference at all. In short the people do not trust the police and the government authorities,” he said.
Paul also said that the Forest department and the Land and Survey Department were equally unhelpful to the natives who viewed the relevant government departments as “only serving the companies and the government but not the people”.
He went on to say that to compound the natives’ miseries, most of the time, the people who were being used as front men to subdue and subjugate the natives in collusion with the government departments were shadowy figures from the underworld.
The climax of this modus operandi was at Batu Niah resulting in a murder incident, he said, alleging that it was also normal for a government department to be used by a private company to enforce a civil claim in the event of disputes with the natives.
The Police, Land and Survey Department and the Forest Department were the usual enforcement agents used to enforce claims over NCR lands. The shooting of the villagers by the Police at Tinjar oil palm estate was an example of many such cases.
Paul suggested that “all forest and timber found on native customary rights lands shall belong to the land owners who shall be authorized to cut, sell and trade in the forest produce or timber in accordance to the regulations established by the Native Land Council.
In addition to that permit from the Forest Department may be required for the purpose of facilitating the transaction with no restriction. There shall only be minimal administrative fees.” - The Broken Shield
(Note: This is the last article on the Dayak Symposium)