Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Court hands victory to longhouse folk

KUCHING: The residents of seven longhouses in Tuba today heaved a sigh of relief when the Kuching High Court ordered the state to exclude their lands from the proposed Sebuyau National Park.

“It is a huge victory for us,” said Joshua Karim, a spokesman for the group.

“Credit should be given to the people for their brave efforts and their patience.”

Two years ago, the state government earmarked some 27,500 hectares of land in Ulu Sebuyau for the park, meant as a wildlife sanctuary, particularly for orang utan and proboscis monkeys.

Several longhouses, including the seven in Tuba, would have had to be moved out from the area.

But the Tuba folk brought their case to court with the help of native land rights activist Baru Bian and his legal firm. The decision today ensured that 5,000 acres of the NCR (native customary right) land are safe. Only 400 acres of NCR land are now part of the park.

“Now we can sleep peacefully and are no longer fearful of being moved out from the land which we have occupied since the time of Rajah Brooke,” Karim said.

Negotiations to start
Celebrating the victory with them today was PKR supreme councilor Zaid Ibrahim, who flew in from Kuala Lumpur to hear the court decision.

Zaid said the case should serve as a lesson to the state government that it could not simply ignore the rights of the people.

Baru Bian, briefing the press on the court decision, said his clients would begin negotiations with the government next week for some form of compensation for the money they had to spend on the case.

“I hope it can be settled out of court,” he said.


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