Malaysia: 6 Indigenous forest defenders arrested
6 Malaysians (2 women and 4 men) were detained by the Malaysian police
in Bintulu, Sarawak on boxing day, 26.12.2008 for purported
involvement in a series of robberies and house break-ins. They were
all detained under s. 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code pending
investigation. The 6 Malaysians are all indigenous persons of Iban
origin and they are Marai Sengok, Bunya Sengok, Melati Bekeni (wife of
Marai), Elizabeth Terang (wife of Bunya), Roland Jali and Spencer
Jampi. Both Marai and Bunya are sons of headman Sengok and Sengok’s
family has been struggling to keep their ancestral land.
their land in Bintulu has been encroached by a number of plantation
and logging companies. This family has been defending their land
diligently from such encroachments for quite some time. Out of the 6
Malaysians, 3 have been released – Elizabeth, Roland and Spencer. The
remainder 3, Marai, Bunya and Melati were remanded 3 times up to the
maximum period of 14 days allowed under the Criminal Procedure Code.
On 15.01.2009, all 3 Malaysians and the Indonesians were detained
under s. 3(1) of the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime)
Ordinance 5 1969 for further investigations. Under this Ordinance, a
person can be detained up to 60 days without a trial.
Marai and Melati
are a married couple with 2 young children, Vincent Sabang AK Marai (3
years) and Victoria Ghiendoun AK Marai (1½ years). Melati is still a
breastfeeding mother to Victoria. Since the detention, Victoria has
been brought to the police station twice daily to be fed by her mother
whom she is missing tremendously. The environment at the police
lock-up is neither conducive for the feeding process nor is it a place
for children. Of late, the police has denied Melati her access to
feeding Victoria. This in itself is a human right violation. Further,
the entire process of having the children visit their detained parents
in the lock-up is distressing and traumatic to them. SAM is
disappointed with the police for detaining all 3 under a law
established during Malaysia’s emergency period in 1969. Although we
understand that this law today is mostly used against those suspected
to be involved in violent and organised crimes, we believe that the
denial and delay of one’s right to be tried in a court of law is still
a fundamental breach of natural justice as it does not give one a
right to be heard.
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