Malaysian authorities yesterday destroyed two dozen homes in an indigenous Iban community near the town of Bintulu in Sarawak, alleges a human rights group.
The Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) reports the Malaysian police and soldiers “demolished about 25 houses with all the natives’ belongings inside without prior notice being given to the community” in serving an eviction order that is currently under appeal.
BMF notes that one of the victims is headman Nor anak Nyaway, a community leader who won international recognition for his land rights battle against the Sarawak government.
Iban natives of Sungai Sekabai are shocked after the destruction of their village by the Malaysian authorities; in the center headman Nor anak Nyaway.
Destroyed house at the Iban village of Sungai Sekabai. Pictures © BMF / TAHABAS
“In a 2001 landmark court ruling, the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak acknowledged that the Iban community under Nor had native customary rights not only over their farmland but also over primary rainforests,” said BMF in a statement.
Baru Bian, the legal representative of the Iban community and Sarawak chairman of Anwar Ibrahim’s Justice party, PKR, called the demolition “unacceptable” and “inhumane.” He plans to ask the court for an injunction and compensation for the community for loss of property.
The Iban have been in conflict with the Sarawak government for decades. The Iban say authorities have parceled out their customary lands to loggers and oil palm plantation developers. Planned dam projects are also a point of contention.