Friday, December 16, 2011

Sarawak Chief Minister's sister ordered to pay natives

|December 16, 2011
Fresh from one win over a logging firm, native landowners are now suing the state government and its agents for allowing the encroachment by private entities.

KUCHING: The Kuching High Court today ordered Quality Concrete Holdings, a company owned by Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s sister Raziah, to pay RM160,000 in damages to Numpang Anak Suntai and Iban landowners in Sebangan and Sebuyau areas.

The other defendants were Loyal Billion Sdn Bhd, the Director of Forests, Director of Lands and Surveys and the state government.Numpang and 14 other landowners had, on behalf of 276 Ibans, sued the companies and the government for encroaching into 3,305 hectares of forests which they claimed were their native customary rights (NCR) land.

Quality Concrete, which is owned by Raziah Mahmud, is the main licence holder while Loyal Billion is the contractor.

When the case came before Judicial Commissioner Ravinthran N Paramaguru today, lawyers for the defendants told the court that the Director of Forest had agreed to exclude three areas on the western side of the timber licencee (T/8473), which is within the area marked as NCR.

The defence counsel said that there was no more timber licence granted on any part of the area claimed by the natives as NCR land in a marked map which was attached to the statement of claim.

Both lawyers for the natives and defendants agreed to an amicable settlement on damages.

Case against government to proceed

In their suit, the natives had claimed that their land was damaged as a result of the construction of roads and extraction of timber from the land, which is not a licensed area.

They also alleged that the rivers, which are important for their daily needs, have been polluted by the logging activities.

This had also affected their farms, hunting and fishing ground as well as their cultivated gardens.

The natives wanted the court to assess the losses and damages suffered by the people.

In consenting to the order, Justice Ravindran ordered the second defendants to pay to the plaintiffs RM160,000 in damages.

The judge said the consent order shall not in any way affect the natives’ claims against the Director of Forest, Director of Lands and Surveys and the the state government.

He ordered the payment of RM160,000 to be made to Baru Bian Advocates and Solicitors.

He also ruled that Quality Concrete and the Loyal Billion cannot submit their application for renewal of timber licence over the said licenced area.

Meanwhile, the Ibans suit against the Director of Forest, the Director of Lands and Surveys and the state government over their claims that 3,305 hectares of the forest are part of their NCR land will proceed next.