Dialogue to be held to resolve Batu Bungan land standoff, says Mulu rep

The Penans of Batu Bungan staging a blockage against an oil palm company, which they claimed had intruded onto their land.

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Feb 18: A dialogue session will be held soon among all stakeholders in the Batu Bungan land issue in order to find an amicable solution, assures Mulu assemblyman Dato Gerawat Gala.

“A dialogue will be arranged very soon with the help of the District and Resident Office in Miri for all the relevant parties to come together to resolve the matter.

“Representatives of the Penans of Batu Bungan, the Berawans from Long Terawan and Kampung Malinau, Mulu, Radiant Lagoon Sdn Bhd (owner of the oil palm plantation), Land and Survey Department, Forestry Department and the police will be invited to the dialogue,” Gerawat told DayakDaily today.

He hoped all the parties concerned would remain calm and not take the law into their own hands.

“In the meantime, I have requested Radiant Lagoon to stop further work in the disputed area pending the dialogue. I also appealed to all parties to remain calm and not to take the law into their own hands,” he said.

According to Gerawat, he had been informed about the blockade by the Penan community of Batu Bungan in Mulu to stop Radiant Lagoon from clearing an area within their Provisional Lease in Mulu. The Penans claim the affected area is theirs.

“I am aware that the police have visited the site to assess the situation on the ground to ensure that peace and security are maintained and to advise all parties to observe the law.

“However, I am not aware of any threat made by the police against the Penans and their Ketua Kaum.

“The advice given by the police on maintaining security and safety may have been wrongly perceived as a threat, which was not meant to be,” he said.

Gerawat was commenting on community reports that Special Branch officers had threatened to arrest Ukau Lupong, an indigenous Penan leader, over protests against a 4,400-hectare oil palm plantation on native forest lands in the Mulu region. The threat was allegedly issued during a meeting between community leaders and local government officials on Feb 14 this year.

Ukau Lupong

It was reported that Ukau is one of the organisers of a protest letter by 268 indigenous Penan and Berawan villagers to the authorities.

The communities have been calling on Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to immediately end the destruction of their forest by Radiant Lagoon.

Last month, the communities also started to stage blockades to prevent the oil palm company from entering what they claimed is their territory.

Batu Bungan is a Penan village located on the edge of the Unesco-protected Mulu National Park. The planned oil palm plantation purportedly threatens the villagers’ livelihoods and is feared to cut off an important wildlife corridor near the Mulu National Park.

Besides Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), the Bruno Manser Fund also urged the police to stop all intimidations and called on the state and federal authorities to start a meaningful dialogue with the communities affected by the Mulu oil palm encroachments. — DayakDaily