Villagers denied access to plantation dismantle gates

BUKIT KISI, Peninjau, Bakong: Two iron gates put up by a joint venture plantation company at Bukit Kisi oil palm plantations were removed by over 200 villagers from five longhouses yesterday.

The villagers who have been planting and harvesting oil palm in the plantation area since 1985 claimed that they have been barred from entering the area and harvesting their oil palm since two months ago.

The company, a Land Consolidation and Development Authority (LCDA) joint venture company, had put up gates at the entrance to the plantation area after the Provisional Lease (PL) of the land where the plantations are located were handed over to LCDA.

Residents affected by the situation were from Rumah Jambai Jali, Rumah Rajit Ambas, Rumah James Biri Steven, Rumah Duat Kalom and Rumah Jeli Naga.

We depend on the plantation for our monthly income. It helps us put our children through school as well as put food on our table.

Taking the plantation away from us is like robbing us of our livelihood and that is why we have no choice but to come together and dismantle the gates, said Tuai Rumah Rajit.

He claimed that the company involved had engaged gangsters to guard the gates and when the villagers went through they were charged between RM30 and RM50 by the men.

We have applied for land title for the said land and in 2003 officers from Land and Survey came over to measure the perimeter.

So we patiently waited for the land title but it never came. When we enquired in 2008, we were shocked when told by the Land and Survey that the lands PL has been given to LCDA, he said.

Tuai Rumah Jambai who was also at the scene when The Borneo Post arrived yesterday said the villagers had spoken to the authority on the matter and a meeting cum discussion involving all parties were held last Feb 19.

Following the meeting, Miri Resident, in an official letter, had requested LCDA to open the barricade and allow us to operate in our plantation as usual.

LCDA had also been instructed to take out anything in relation to the barricade out of the plantation area. But until today, the barricade (gates) is still there, and thats why we (villagers) decided to act on our own, he said.

He also showed reporters at the scene a letter signed by Miri Resident Ganie Ugay which instructed the company to open the barricade.

Another resident of Rumah Jambai, Sunggau Sipok said she had not been able harvest her oil palm as they were not allowed to enter the plantation area.

To make matters worse, the plantation which I have been operating with my own blood and sweat is being harvested by someone else.

My family has been working so hard on it and investing a lot of money in the plantation, but now we can only watch as other people harvest it, she said.

Meanwhile, a manager of the company, Chin Wui Chung when met at the scene denied that the gates were put up to stop the villagers from entering the area and harvesting their crops.

We put up the gates to avoid outsiders from coming into the land, not to stop the villagers. The lands PL has been given to the company since 2006 so we do not want outsiders to come in, he said, as he held the PL letter to reporters.

He, however, did not explain how the affected villagers could reach their plantation if they were also considered outsiders.