Taken from Free Malaysia Today
KUCHING: Two non-governmental organisations have strongly condemned the detention of native customary rights lawyer and activist Harrison Ngau at the Kuching International Airport yesterday.
Ngau was interrogated by Special Branch and immigration officers and only allowed to leave after he told them that he had nothing to do with the London protests against Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud over the Penan issue.
The Borneo Resource Institute Malaysia (Brimas) condemned the latest attempt by the state authorities to restrict the movement of human rights and people activists.
“It looks like Land Development Minister James Masing’s pledge that the state government was willing to engage with NGOs is already beginning to sound hollow,” said Brimas executive secretary Mark Bujang.
“The state government is reverting to its old tactics of intimidation and restricting activists from travelling abroad.
“There are a few Sarawakian activists who are not allowed to travel outside the country, and a number of activists from West Malaysia and Sabah are not allowed to enter Sarawak,” he said.
“This is clearly a violation of our constitutional rights and also a breach of the United Nations declaration of indigenous people (Undrip)” he said.
The Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) meanwhile in an email to FMT condemned the “ill-intention of the authorities to hold the indigenous lawyer at the airport.”
“I know that Harrison is here to attend a dispute resolution under RSPO (roundtable sustainable palm oil) mechanism meeting.
“The dispute is over native land issue with IOI oil palm company which has an estate in Tinjar, Baram,” said Sadia secretary general Nicholas Mujah.
The lawyer, according to Mujah, was also to discuss with IOI lawyers about the company’s appeal against the high court decision that favoured the natives.
“But the biggest concern is why there is a need to harass Harrison. He is just a poor lawyer,” said Mujah, stressing that the authorities in the state need to be well-informed and trained about human rights laws, practices and application in this modern world.
Describing the present government system as obsolete, he said the arbitrary abuse of power in many cases had contradicted the principle of laws – state, national and international laws.
He said: “I feel there is an ulterior motive or a hidden agenda why they have to harass and intimidate him.
Ngau was previously noted for his anti-logging activities and leading blockades by the indigenous people against timber operations in the Baram area.
“Is it because Harrison is brave in defending the rights of the poor natives of Sarawak?” he asked.
Because of these activities he was put under house arrest for almost two years beginning from October 1987 and spent 60 days under the Internal Security Act.Part of this time he was placed in a solitary confinement and interrogated twice daily.
In 1987 his passport was impounded by the state authorities and was returned to him in 2003. However, his movement inside and outside the country continued to be monitored by the authorities.