NGO calls for state govt to remove Batang Igan blockade

Bill (left) with Kini Jalak, the son of Tuai Rumah Jalak speaking at the press conference.

SIBU, Dec 9: Sadia Rajang wants the cement-blocks blockade erected across two access roads leading to Rumah Jalak and Rumah Nita at Tanjung Penasu, Batang Igan near here to be removed.

“We strongly urge the local government to lift this blockade within 24 hours because this is blatant disregard for basic human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 3 and Federal Constitution Article 5 and 8(5),” said Bill Jugah, Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) Rajang branch chairman on Monday (Dec 9).

He said it had been almost a week since the blockade was erected on Dec 3. It was learnt that a dispute between the land owner and the two longhouses had caused the former to block the road from being accessed by the people there.

Although a meeting between local community leaders and the relevant authorities was held last Friday (Dec 6), there was no affirmative action resulting from it, and the blockade was still there when Sadia Rajang, Sarawak Liberation Movement, PEDAS and other NGOs visited the scene on Sunday (Dec 8).

“Please do not pass the buck from one government agency to another agency thereby causing unnecessary delay in implementation.

“Irrespective of any land dispute, compensation or settlement problem causing this blockade, the social and basic rights of the affected community must be safeguarded first. Any other issue is secondary and can be resolved later. Otherwise it is a sign of weak and poor governance on the part of the local government,” Bill opined.

Longhouse folk removing the cement blocks on Monday (Dec 9) despite not receiving the greenlight to do so.

Meanwhile Sadia Rajang vice-chairman Tuah Lumpoh said: “The local government needs to resolve this expediently; otherwise there would be no point of awarding a two-month bonus to state government servants when they do not perform their obligatory duties. With the state election coming very soon next year, current governance needs to reflect efficiency, professionalism and equality. We should pity the young children and the elderly who had to walk 1.3km to their longhouse because of the blockade. The longhouse folks are deprived of their rights to live their lives freely without constraint.”

Sadia Rajang secretary Tungku Balang also chimed in, “Regardless of any problem causing the blockade, be it political or otherwise, any government needs to be responsible in discharging their duties and (should) discharge it expediently. Not at the expense of the people.”

Garai Badin who heads Sadia Rajang’s committee on land and culture opined that any dispute could be settled amicably but the blockade issue has been left unresolved for too long causing major inconvenience to the 300 residents from the two longhouses there.

“Solve the problem of the people first; any discussion or negotiation can be done later,” he concluded. — DayakDaily