by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, February 18, 1992:
International reactions against the arrest of a Sarawak indigenous activist fighting for indigenous land and cultural rights as a criminal would be even more adverse than detaining him under the ISA
The Police headquarters at Bukit Aman admitted for the first time the arrest of Anderson Mutang Urud under the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 but denied that there had been mass arrested of several indigenous people in Sarawak since January.
Bukit Aman public affairs division acting chief, DSP Reduan Aslie, said the police had only arrested Anderson, which had nothing to do with the Penans’ attempt to protect their lands and forests as alleged by foreign news reports and referred to by delegates of the four-day Conference of the Indigenous peoples of the Tropical Forests in Penang.
The Police and the Malaysian authorities should be forewarned that international reactions to the arrest of a Sarawak indigenous activist fighting for indigenous land and cultural rights as a criminal would be even more adverse than detaining him under the Internal Security Act!
This is because this would signify that the Malaysian and Sarawak authorities are moving towards the position that Sarawak indigenous peoples who oppose logging and deforestation in the fight to protect their land and cultural rights are been regarded as criminal elements who deserve the full rigours of criminal law and punishment.
If the Malaysian and Sarawak authorities take punitive action against the indigenous peoples who fight for their land and cultural rights by treating them as criminals, Malaysia will be in the dock of international opinion and the government and country will have to defend themselves against actions which will be internationally regard as gross abuses and violations of human rights.
DAP calls on the Malaysian Government to immediately and unconditionally release Anderson Mutang Urud who has detained in Miri at 11.30 p.m. on February 5, 1992 or he be charged in court and afforded an open trial to defend himself.
The Malaysian government should also explain why it had to invoke an antiquated law, the outdated 23-year Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 when 1969 Emergency had long ended.
DSP Reduan Aslie may be right if he says that so far, only one person in Sarawak had been detained under the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 which allows for indefinite detention without trial.
However, DSP Reduan Aslie is definitely wrong if he claims that there had been no mass arrests of indigenous peoples in Sarawak since January, e.g. Ibans, Kenyans, Kelabits and Penans for putting up native logging barricades which has been made a criminal offence under Section 90B of the Sarawak Forests Ordinance. DAP MP for Lanang, Jason Wong Sing Nang, is the counsel for some of the Sarawak indigenous peoples arrested in Sarawak last month for offences under the Sarawak Forests Ordinance.
DAP calls on the Malaysian and Sarawak authorities to make public the total number of indigenous people in Sarawak who had been arrested under the Sarawak Forests Ordinance since January, and the total number of indigenous people in Sarawak who are awaiting trial under the Ordinance at present.
It does not reflect well on the state of freedom of the press in Malaysia when people from other countries know more about these arrests than Malaysians or even Sarawakians themselves!
Instead of devoting so much of the government’s resources to arrest the indigenous peoples in Sarawak fighting for their land and cultural rights, the government should channel these resources to finding a solution to the long-standing struggle of the indigenous people in Sarawak to determine their own way of life in keeping with the goal of sustainable development of the tropical rainforests.