The residents of Rumah Ranggong in Sarawak are fighting to defend their native customary rights land in Sarawak. Brimas reports on their day in court yesterday.
KUCHING – The much anticipated trial of the residents of Rumah Ranggong longhouse against BLD Resources Sdn Bhd, the Sarawak Land and Survey Department and the Sarawak Government got off to a lively start yesterday morning at the Kuching High Court, with the representatives of the longhouse holding a peaceful demonstration in front of the court complex.
Around 80 representatives of the longhouse came in two buses at 9.00am and congregated in front of the court complex. They held a short demonstration before proceeding into the court house where the trial started at 10.00am.
Three witnesses from three neighbouring longhouses were called to testify and acknowledge the existence of the native customary rights claims of the residents of Rumah Ranggong and their communal boundary between them.
The three witnesses were Tuai Rumah Belili anak Liom from Rumah Belili, Buak anak Jenau from Rumah Ampau and Tuai Rumah Umpor Anak Lunsa from Rumah Umpor.
At 4.00pm, the trial was adjourned to 24 to 28 January 2011.
The case was presided by Justice Datuk Albert Linton, while Harrison Ngau Laing represented the Plaintiffs headed by Changgai Anak Dali and a few others from Rumah Ranggong. George Lo represented the First Defendant, BLD Resources Sdn. Bhd. and Joseph Cheoh represented the Sarawak Land and Surveys Department and the Sarawak State Government.
Previously in 2008, BLD Resources sued Changgai Anak Dali for allegedly trespassing into BLD’s plantation. Changgai disputed this suit saying that he and the residents of Rumah Ranggong have native customary rights (NCR) over the said land. In fact, in 1999, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between BLD Sdn Bhd (sister company of BLD Resources), the Sarawak Land Development Board (SLDB) and the NCR landowners at Ulu Niah, where Rumah Belili and Rumah Ranggong were the participating longhouses, to develop the Ulu Niah NCR land based on the joint venture project called ‘konsep baru’.
However in 2008, Changgai and his fellow villagers discovered to their horror that their NCR JV project was cancelled – the reason given was that the government made a ‘mistake’ in saying the land is NCR.
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu and the then Sarawak Minister for Housing, Celestine Ujang, handed out the 10 per cent upfront payment worth RM294,990 in 2001 to the participants of the scheme. The promised dividends or bonus payments for the participants of the scheme were not paid until 10 years later when the residents protested against BLD’s suit.
In 2008, Jabu in in an attempt to pacify the angry villagers handed a cheque amounting to RM436,708 in dividends and bonuses to 226 participants of the Ulu Niah NCR Joint Venture Project. However, the suit made by BLD against them was not withdrawn and worse, the State Government does not recognise the land as native customary land.