From Sahabat Alam Malaysia
Betreff: Urgent Alert: Appeal for release of 3 indigenous persons in Sarawak
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) received a complaint from headman Sengok Sabang in Bintulu, Sarawak on the arrest of his family members including his two sons and daughters-in-laws. Following is a brief on what transpired between 26.12.2008 and today.
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. Currently, 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.
It is also unfair to detain the three whose alleged acts cannot be substantiated with solid evidence. Numerous letters have been sent to various authorities appealing for information and release of the detainees. To date there has been no response.
We now need your help to send letters to the following people urging the immediate release of the 3 indigenous persons. A model letter has been included but you can write your own polite letters too. Please send emails or faxes to the following addresses and a blind carbon copy (bcc) to us at email@example.com. Please share this email with all your friends and contacts in your respective networks and on your blogs or websites. Thank you.
Team at SAM
YAB Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud
Chief Minister of Sarawak
22nd Floor, Wisma Bapa Malaysia,
Petra Jaya, 93502 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
firstname.lastname@example.org BY POST/FAX: +6082-444566
YB Datuk Amar Wilson Baya Dandot
State Secretary of Sarawak
20th Floor, Wisma Bapa Malaysia
Petra Jaya, 93502 Kuching,
email@example.com BY POST/FAX: +6082-441677
Datu Haji Abdul Razak Tready
State AG’s Chambers
Level 16, Wisma Bapa Malaysia,
firstname.lastname@example.org BY POST/FAX: +6082-440525
Tan Sri Musa bin Dato’ Hj Hassan
Ketua Polis Negara
Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia
50560 Kuala Lumpur
email@example.com BY POST/FAX: +603-22731326
Datuk Mohmed Salleh
Ketua Polis Negeri
Ibupejabat Polis Kontinjen Sarawak
Polis Diraja Malaysia
firstname.lastname@example.org BY POST/FAX: +6082-257664
Dear YAB, YB, Datu Haji, Tan Sri, Datuk,
Call For Immediate Release of Three Indigenous Persons Detained Under the Emergency Ordinance 1969
[You may insert your own Greetings]
[I/We] understand that the Bintulu District Police has detained three Iban people – Bunya Sengok, Marai Sengok and Melati Bekeni under Section 3(1) of the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 5 1969 since 15.1.09 for purported crimes, details of which are not clear.
Prior to that they were detained under Section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code from 26.12.08 until 15.1.09 for allegedly being involved in a spate of armed gang robberies in Bintulu and few other places. However, after three weeks of investigation, the police have now inexplicably detained them under this Act which allows for their detention up to 60 days without trial.
[I/We] have come to know that all 3 detainees are indigenous persons struggling to keep their ancestral land. Currently, 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.
Mr Sengok Sabang, headman and a respected person in the community, and father of Marai, Bunya and father-in-law to Melati, has stressed that his sons and daughter-in-law have never had any criminal records in the past. He strongly believes that the detention is motivated by the family’s resolute defence of their ancestral land.
If this allegation is indeed true, then the police should release them with immediate effect.
What is alarming is that one of the detainees, Melati Bekeni, is still a breastfeeding mother to her daughter, Victoria Ghiendoun Marai, 1 year and 5 months old. Melati and her husband, Marai Sengok also have a 3-year-old son, Vincent Sabang Marai.
At the beginning of their detention, Melati was at least allowed to breastfeed Victoria twice daily, despite the unpleasant environment. However of late, Melati has been repeatedly refused access to her daughter. This is clearly a human rights violation; a denial of her right to see and feed her young child who is dependent on her for nourishment. Further, the detention has also badly impacted the children, affecting their sleeping patterns and appetite. We understand that the entire process of having the children visit their detained parents in the lock-up is distressing and traumatic to them.
[I/We] have been informed that this particular law under which the three have been charged was established in 1969 during Malaysia’s Emergency. It allows suspects to be detained anywhere from 60 days up to as long as 2 years or more, without them being charged and given access to claim trial. 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.
Thus in principle, it is inherently unfair for the police to perpetuate the detention of the three individuals above. The police certainly have the need for some time to investigate a purported crime. If evidence is to be found, the suspect must be swiftly charged and tried in court. However, if they have failed to find sufficient evidence to charge a detained suspect, perpetuation of his/her detention is tantamount to a gross abuse of power.
On this ground, we thus condemn the detention and demand the police for an immediate release of the three individuals if they have thus far failed to furnish sufficient evidence to charge them in a court of law.
[I/We] especially appeal to your good office for Melati Bekeni to be released immediately.
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