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Sabah police summons activist under Sedition Act over Bajau Laut eviction issue

Sabah authorities have summoned activist Mukmin Nantang under the Sedition Act, linked to the recent Bajau Laut eviction in Semporna. #PandangKeSabah Movement on social media highlights concerns, urging Malaysia to probe alleged human rights violations and prioritize justice over activist prosecution.



SABAH, MALAYSIA: Sabah authorities have reportedly summoned local human rights activist Mukmin Nantang for questioning under the Sedition Act, believed to be connected to the recent eviction case of the Bajau Laut people (Sea Gypsies) in Semporna.

According to Malaysian alternative media Malaysiakini, Mukmin, who heads the NGO Borneo Komrad, has been asked to present himself at the Semporna District Police Headquarters on Thursday (27 June) for investigations under the Sedition Act.

Semporna district police chief Mohd Farhan Lee Abdullah confirmed that police have called Mukmin to have his statement recorded under the Sedition Act.

BERSIH (The Coalition for Clean and Fair Election) Sabah Coordinator Asraf Sharafi said they believe the investigation connected to videos showing Bajau Laut houses being demolished near Tun Sakaran Marine Park three weeks ago.

Sabah Human Rights Centre lawyer Sherzali Asli will be representing Mukmin during the session.

Mukmin was among the most vocal NGOS in the incident and played a key role in highlighting the eviction of the Bajau Laut community in Semporna earlier this month.

He has brought public attention to allegations of authorities’ operations to evict the residents by demolishing their stilt houses.

Borneo Komrad has also published several video recordings showing the demolition actions.

Among them is a video showing several men pushing a dilapidated house until it collapses, and another showing a woman lamenting the loss of her home and pleading for compassion from the “authorities.”

Sabah Government denied any human rights violations in the eviction of hundreds of Bajau Laut people

From 4 to 6 June, the Sabah authorities burned several homes belonging to Bajau Laut families around the Tun Sakaran Marine Park (TSMP), an incident widely recorded and later went viral.

However, the state government denied any human rights violations in the eviction of hundreds of Bajau Laut people.

Sabah Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew stated, “In this sense, I don’t see any human rights violation. If you talk about that …yes, I admit they have been staying there for a long time. But… human right violations I would say we would talk about this when we come to the discussion table.

“There is a lot of technical issues behind it. First we need to identify what are their nationalities, what kind of human rights violations are we talking about? Have they been offered to move and live inland and they refused as they prefer that kind of lifestyle?” she told the media on 7 June.

In a subsequent statement, she said that authorities had the right to take action as the protected marine park prohibited many activities deemed destructive.

Liew said 273 evacuation notices were issued from 2 to 4 May to “unauthorised settlements” built within TSMP.

During the operations conducted from 4 to 6 June, 138 “unauthorised settlements” were demolished in the hot zone, according to Liew.

She defended that, according to police sources involved in the operation, some homeowners burned their houses while the operation team was not in the area.

“They intend to make the issue go viral on social media and garner sympathy and attention from Netizens.”

Liew emphasized that in terms of compliance with the Parks Enactment 1984, TSMP is one of the areas proclaimed as a park area or a state park.

She added that any violation of provisions under the enactment, such as fishing, erecting structures without permission, and farming, empowered Sabah Parks to take action accordingly.

“All actions that have been implemented have been agreed upon by the relevant agencies in several meetings, including eight legitimate representatives of the Tun Sakaran Marine Park community, who unanimously requested the immediate removal of the unauthorised community from the area.”

In a statement issued on 9 June, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) said it is closely monitoring the recent evictions by the Sabah government against the Bajau Laut community in Semporna.

Suhakam said there is a need to assess the broader humanitarian impact of these actions despite prior notice given to the affected communities.

The Bajau Laut is a unique and historically marginalized community facing significant challenges, including limited access to basic services such as healthcare and education.

Ironically, on the official website of Sabah Parks, the local national park authorities advertise TSMP as a favorite spot for divers, highlighting the Bajau Laut’s nomadic lifestyle on boats as “adding to the uniqueness of the park.”

Social media movement urges community to “Look to Sabah”

Following the viral eviction incident, a social media movement emerged, urging the Malaysian and international community to “look to Sabah (#PandangKeSabah).”

The movement calls for the Malaysian government to investigate the alleged human rights violations committed by the Sabah authorities in forcibly evicting the Bajau Laut people, instead of prosecuting activists and arresting stateless students.

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