“Hei brother – do you know that story about squatters demolition in Tatau. I want to know the people’s version of the story – I’ve got the government side of the story,” Hakim said upon learning of several houses in in Sekabai – near Bandar Samarakan – 55km from Bintulu.
“I don’t know,” I said. Surprised that no friends in the media especially Malay and English dailies write about the story.
I asked them why the snub on issues apparently dear to the people.
“Come on it’s an old story la,” – one of them retorted. She said it’s not worth reporting at all.
After a while, then I realized why. It involved Nor anak Nyawai – a local hero – twice the age of David when he slay Goliath – who took Sarawak government proxies to court. It was almost unthinkable then.
He was barely able to write, but Nor was brave. With the help of activist lawyer, he brought a multi-millionaire corporation Borneo Pulp Paper (BPP) sdn. Bhd – a company backed by state government to court over land disputes.
Many thought he was insane – no least – as he was against the wills of Malaysia’s longest serving chief minister.
They won the fight. It was a landmark Native Customary Rights (NCR) land disputes case in Sarawak.
“The law recognized the existence of NCR, but it’s very illusive as one has to prove ownership in court of law,” Baru said when met recently.
However Nor Nyawai and his longhouse folks jubilation were short-live. State government never give up – they mounted another attempt to confiscate the poor longhouse folks’ lands – via a new company – a decade later.
Unlike Borneo Pulp & Paper then, Tatau Land Sdn. Bhd – is a subsidiary of ASSAR – a state-owned investment holding company – directly under the care of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.
ASSAR is a well-diversified portfolio of investments in Financial Services, Agro & Resource-based, Property Development & Construction, Services & Technology, Manufacturing, Trading and others.
“No wonder they said it was government order and threatened us with contempt of Court if we disobey,” Nor said, after learning it was a state-linked company.
“A government we help elected is now turn our enemy. I’ll never vote for them again,” he said in disappointment.
But, it’s too late. His ‘anembiak’ had lost 39 of their houses and everything that were still inside the house during the demolition.
Nothing were spared, no respect was given. Even a sick, elderly former headman Tarang Usit, his wife were forcefully dragged out of their home by three policemen – so Tatau Land Sdn Bhd’s excavator can tear down their house.
“I’ve never been treated in such humiliating manner,” said Tarang – recalling how he was dragged mercilessly from his home.
“Never again he said. I told them to just shot me – but they refused.”
Part 2: Dr Rundi – Kemena Assemblyman said ‘it’s fair – the houses were empty and more to come…