Wednesday, September 16, 2009


16 September 2009

As Malaysia commemorates its 46th anniversary, 15 indigenous Sarawakians have been detained by Kuching police at 2:45pm today for trying to send a memorandum of protest to the Sarawak Chief Minister. Among those arrested are Mark Bujang (BRIMAS), Raymond Abin (BRIMAS) and Hellan Empaing (WADESA), all leaders of the Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (Indigenous People's Network of Malaysia) as well as representatives from the Kayan, Kenyah and Penan communities of Sarawak.

The contingent, consisting of 6 Penan, 4 Iban, 2 Kayan and 3 Kenyah are all representatives of communities who will be affected by two major dams which are being built in their areas. They had prepared a memorandum on the issue and were delivering it to Wisma Bapa Malaysia, the office of the Chief Minister. While waiting for endorsement of the document, they were arrested by local police. They are currently being held in the Kampung Gita Police Station in Petra Jaya, Kuching, Sarawak. It is uncertain whether they are being charged, or what reasons are being given for their detention.

Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia strongly condemns the detention of its members who were attempting to deliver a memorandum on behalf of the indigenous peoples of the Baram and Murum areas of Sarawak. The memorandum protested the State Government’s actions to build hydro-electric dams in these areas without the free, prior and informed consent of the communities affected and without due regards to the status of the native lands involved. The actions of the State Government are in clear contradiction to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Malaysia strongly supports.

We also condemn the use of arrest to intimidate and silence the voices of the communities who are questioning the construction of large dams on the area. This demonstrates the unwillingness of the State Government to ensure the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in projects that affect them.

We call upon the Sarawak State Government to immediately release all fifteen Sarawakians and engage in a proper consultative process with the affected communities. We also call for the respect of the constitutional native land rights of these communities. It is also in violation of the right to peaceful assembly, guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

Take action!

1. URGENT: Please phone the Gita police station and ask after the well-being of the activists, ask what they are being charged with and demand their unconditional release in line with Constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly (Article 10). Tel: ++6 082-254417

2. Write to the following:
Chief Minister of Sarawak
YAB Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud
Chief Minister of Sarawak
22nd Floor, Wisma Bapa Malaysia,
Petra Jaya, 93502 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
FAX: +6082-444566

2. YB Datuk Amar Wilson Baya Dandot
State Secretary of Sarawak
20th Floor, Wisma Bapa Malaysia
Petra Jaya, 93502 Kuching,
Sarawak, Malaysia
FAX: +6082-441677

3. Datu Haji Abdul Razak Tready
Sarawak Attorney-General
State AG’s Chambers
Level 16, Wisma Bapa Malaysia,
Petra Jaya
93502 Kuching,
Sarawak, Malaysia
FAX: +6082-440525

4. Tan Sri Musa bin Dato’ Hj Hassan
Ketua Polis Negara
Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia
Bukit Aman,50560 Kuala Lumpur
FAX: +603-22731326

5. Datuk Mohmed Salleh
Ketua Polis Negeri
Ibupejabat Polis Kontinjen Sarawak
Polis Diraja Malaysia
Jalan Badruddin,93560 Kuching,
Sarawak, Malaysia
FAX: +6082-257664

Yours truly,

Adrian Lasimbang
Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)

For more information, please also contact:

Jennifer Rubis
LATEST UPDATE: Just received notice that all 15 indigenous leaders arrested earlier today for trying to send a memorandum to Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud have been released on bail (RM3000 each). They have been summoned to appear in court on 29 September 2009. The Bruno Manser Fund, along with a great number of NGOs in Malaysia and worldwide, is asking the Sarawak authorities to drop all charges against the arrested indigenous leaders and to apologize to them for such rude treatment.
Indigenous activists rounded up in M-Day swoop

Andrew Ong
Sept 16, 2009 6:40pm

There was no Malaysia Day cheer for a group of 15 individuals who were arrested in Kuching while attempting to hand a petition to Chief Minister Taib Mahmud over the displacement of indigenous people.

They were picked up in front of the Wisma Bapa Malaysia building by a group of police personnel and whisked away to the Gita police station.

Sarawak Conservation Action Network (Scane) spokesperson Phillip Jaw, who was among those arrested, expressed disappointment with the police actions.

He said among those arrested were indigenous people residing in the remote areas of Murum and Baram - where hydroelectric dams will be constructed and thus displacing tens of thousands of people.

"Some of us traveled for two days just to be here and hand the petition stating our concerns over the dams. We are disappointed, sad and unhappy that our voices are not heard," said Jaw.

According to Pandungan state rep Dominique Ng (right), who was also arrested, the group started gathering at about 11am but no one from the Chief Minister's Office entertained their request for an official acknowledgment of receipt for the petition.

Police moved in at about 2.45pm after the group haggled in vain with government officials.

"For Sarawakians, Sept 16 is the day we celebrate our independence. But today, it seems the people's voices are being stifled while we seem to be descending into a police state," Ng told Malaysiakini.

Masing: They refused police order to disperse

Ng said those arrested did not breach the law but were merely exercising their democratic rights in voicing their grievances to the government.

"The government is refusing to even listen despite Prime Minister Najib's 1Malaysia rakyat diutamakan (people first) campaign and all. In our case, it is rakyat diabaikan dan diseksa (ignored and suffering)," he said.

"They were arrested for illegal assembly after they refused a police order to disperse," said Sarawak Rural Development Minister James Masing (left).

"That's the law of the land. I believe they will be released soon," he told AFP.

Another detainee Raymond Abin, an activist with Borneo Resources Institute Sarawak (Brimas), said the arrest was regrettable, especially on a day as significant as Malaysia Day.

“People came from afar to have their voices heard. There is no other way for them to express themselves other than through a petition,” lamented Raymond.

According to lawyer Harrison Ngau, the 15 individuals must face charges in court for illegal assembly under Section 27 (5) of the Police Act on Sept 29.

Repeated telephone calls to Kuching district police chief ACP Wong Wai Loong for comments went unanswered.

Petition falling on deaf ears

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Orang Asal Network (Joas) has condemned the arrest of the 15 individuals and for failing to listen to the grievances of the affected groups.

“We also condemn the use of arrest to intimidate and silence the voices of the communities who are questioning the construction of large dams on the area.

“This demonstrates the unwillingness of the state government to ensure the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in projects that affect them,” said Joas president Adrian Lasimbang.

According to Lasimbang, petition had states that the state government decided to build hydro electric dams in the two areas without consulting the affected communities and without any regard to the status of the native lands involved.

“The actions of the state government are in clear contradiction to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Malaysia strongly supports,” said Lasimbang.