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Circumstances surrounding late Long Kerong Headman's death requires police probe
Several circumstantial happenings before the late Long Kerong Headman, Kelesau Naan went missing and after his reported missing require the Malaysian police to demonstrate thorough investigations.
In addition, further circumstantial happenings after his bones were discovered demand the police to thoroughly investigate the case beyond the latest pathological examination of the exhumed bones, and the police's subsequent declaration that there was no foul play in the death of Kelesau Naan.
Various circumstantial happenings call for the police to interview and take statements from concerned individuals and parties.
The New Straits Times had on Sunday, 16th March 2008 quoted the Sarawak CID chief as saying that the late Kelesau Naan "had died of natural causes according to a post-mortem report." This is the second announcement by the police, the first being reported even before the police had made any visit to Long Kerong and interviewed any people.
The Long Kerong community was visited by the Police on 27th February 2008 having flown in to exhume the bones of the late headman Kelesau Naan and brought to Miri. It is not known if any medical personnel accompanied the police team.
While it is unfortunate that the community had to seek the Malaysian Human Rights Commission's publicity in order to get the police to visit the community, the police must demonstrate that they had taken statements from several relevant parties to indicate their thorough investigation beyond the mere exhuming of bones.
There were several events before the late headman went missing which warranted the police to investigate in order to put to rest questions that must be answered.
Nick Kelesau (son of late headman), Martin Bujang (late headman's nephew) and Henry Nyaring visited Suhakam on 13th February 2008, to hand over bundles of documents pertaining to the various happenings. Among the documents were details pertaining to timber workers doing surveying work in the disputed areas that the Long Kerong, Long Sait, Long Spigen and Long Ajeng. Penan communities had filed suit in 1998 against Samling and the Sarawak Government over Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands.
A group of Penan from Long Sait who had come across the timber workers then subsequently told the encroaching party to leave. Unhappy with the Penan people's assertion of their rights, seven timber workers led by a Mr. Dungau Lenjau and a Mr. Lukas had then threatened physical violence against the Penan.
Subsequent happenings after the incident and attempts to settle the dispute that resulted in a meeting between the Penan communities and several timber workers produced more violent threat against the Penan. A letter signed by the late Headman Kelesau Naan and Headman Bilong Oayu of Long Sait to the Samling camp manager, Mr Leong Chin Gheun to control his workers produced no result.
Then the visit by a Ms Sarah, and a Ms Susan Pulut to the headman just before he went missing, among others asking for specific information of the movement of the headman, raised questions about the need to know the specific nature of the late headman's movement within his area.
After it was known locally that the headman had gone missing and before the discovery of bones, a Sio or Mr. Kho Thien Seng who is known locally and often quoting a leading timber logging company in his dealing with the Penan, made visits in a helicopter to offer financial support, together with a Mr Martin Agan Hamilton, known to be Samling worker and a Mr Sim Ki Chin, Sio's relative.
Sio's repeated attempts to get Nick Kelesau to sign statements and the eventual appearance of a letter supposedly signed by Nick Kelesau to say that he did not suspect any foul play in his father's death has resulted in Nick lodging a police report against the matter.
As the Chronology of Events document and various other supporting documents reveal, there are several questions which must be answered by the police investigation. As various personnel are named, the police will need to show that statements would be taken, if not already, of the people who had been named by the Penan.
Specifically, questions center around:
Were threats by timber surveying workers as documented by the Penan accurate? Furthermore, can the named workers' movement be determined to locate where they were on the day the late Kelesau Naan was reported missing?
This question would require the police taking statements from the Penan and the timber workers to come to a conclusion. Anything less would give rise to doubt on the seriousness and comprehensiveness of the police investigation.
What is Mr. Sio's interest in the Penan affair and who is sponsoring his helicopter trips to Long Kerong? What is his relation to the "forged" letter in which Nick had made a police report on? Is Mr. Sio acting alone or under instruction from others and if so, who is giving instruction to him? What is the relationship between Mr Sio and other concerned parties and is there any long-standing relationship, formal and or informal between Sio and others named? What is the status of Nick Kelesau's police report on the appearance of the forged letter?
Mr. Sio is very well known among the locals and so it is not difficult to obtain information pertaining to him. His associations with whom and or with what companies etc are well known among the locals. Any delay in police investigation, if it is not already so, might allow trails to be severed, thus jeopardizing the investigation.
Who is the person Ms. Sarah? Who does she work for? What is her role in obtaining detail information from the late headman in regard to his exact whereabouts when moving around his area and for what purpose to obtain such specific information? Did she pass on such specific information to anyone and if so, to who? Does she know, and how well, the timber surveying workers? Can their movements be constructed to identify possible and nature of contacts and or otherwise before the late headman went missing?
The late Kelesau Naan may or may not have paid with his own life in the long and hard struggle of the Penan people. All eyes will be on the Malaysian Police to see whether questions are answered or more questions are being asked. It has not been a good start thus far and so can the Malaysian Police prove skeptics wrong on their impartiality and professionalism?
Yap Swee Seng
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
18th March 2008
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