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Malaysian communities are ‘waiting’ for deforestation disputes | Natural Issues


Indigenous people from Malaysia’s Sarawak state on Borneo are awaiting their refusal to cut down trees and the Samling Group – which is close to the equivalent of the size of Luxembourg – is being monitored after the country’s timber board has called for a one-year agreement after first complaining about the plan. .

The Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) has responded to 36 complaints from Indigenous Penan, Kenyah and Jamok from Sarawak Upper Limbang and Baram constituencies over alleged misconduct.

The argument is in line with the two-pronged approach to Forest Management Units (FMUs): 148,305-hectare (366,469-acre) Gerenai FMU, located in Upper Baram and 117,941-hectare (292,438-acre) Ravenscourt FMU in Upper Limbang.

The issue of conflict resolution came at a time when people allegedly received letters from Samling threatening to take action to express their views.

The areas call Samling, one of the largest logging companies in Malaysia, a testing and testing and certification company Selangor SIRIM QAS International as part of the dispute. SIRIM QAS was hired by Samling to conduct a site survey prior to MTCC approval. Both parties have until July 15 to respond to the complaints, after which the council will discuss their findings and announce their decision.

The MTCC is accredited by the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), a leading international organization, which has also submitted complaints, such as the Sarawak Forest Department and the National Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM).

“In my opinion, this is the way to go with the MTCC,” Penan leader Komeok Joe, who heads the security forces in Penan Keruan and is helping Penan communities in Upper Limbang submit their grievances to Al Jazeera.

“The affected areas expect the MTCC to make the right decision, as they have been listening to other areas in the past. We want the release of all the necessary documents for the management of Samling boards, so that they can properly communicate and realize the importance of the forest for their health, health and well-being. ”

The Samling logging truck sends logs to the Upper Baram district in Sarawak [courtesy of The Borneo Project]

Thousands of Indians living north of Limbang and Baram depend on the forest for their health and culture, while the Baram River is the second largest in the state. The area is also home to endangered species, including giraffes, bears, and hornbills, which are also at risk of deforestation.

Valid question

Last year, locals from Baram and Limbang told Al Jazeera that when deforestation in their area Samling was certified by the MTCC as “permanent”, they did not give their free, original and informed logging permit because they were not fully requested and did not have access to environmental assessments provided by the company.

In their complaint, filed in May, the districts have shown the difference between the council’s board’s approval and its installation on the ground. He also mentioned the lack of transparency, Samling’s inability to properly consult deforestation areas, and that he did not ignore the Indians’ dependence on mountainous areas, as well as forest protection measures.

In response to emails from Al Jazeera’s questions, Samling said he had “repeatedly responded to baseless allegations”, which he said “disrupted and destroyed” the company’s reputation.

It also added that it had filed lawsuits against Save Rivers, a non-profit organization operating in the region.

“In these circumstances, we hope you will realize that we do not have the right to comment on any matters or issues related to what is expected, including a dispute resolution process at the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC),” Tzee Ling Tia, Samling’s chief of staff, said in an email. “Samling insisted it complies with all the requirements of the MTCC.

Indian communities have also highlighted flaws in the MTCC grievance process.

“At the center of the issue will be Samling’s misunderstanding of the free, original and legitimate meaning,” the complaint – which Al Jazeera – says. “Dealing with a select few in the community is not the same as asking the community what they really want.

“Samling admits that it takes timber, many areas in the FMU have a different perspective on their areas: they want to protect their forests for future generations, their livelihoods, wildlife and tourism.”

The rural Indians living in Upper Baram in Sarawak depend on forests for their health and culture [Courtesy of The Borneo Project]

In Upper Baram, for example, the Kenyah Jamok and Penan communities have been working to establish a Baram Peace Park (also known as the Upper Baram Forest Area) – which was led by the people to protect the last parts of the Sarawak forest, celebrate local culture and live good.

The concept of a Indian-led wildlife park dates back to decades of deforestation and natural use and is rooted in the wisdom and knowledge that has been passed down through the generations of people who consider themselves forest rangers.

First established by the districts in 2009, the request was supported by local and foreign government agencies and was later approved by the Department of Wildlife Management in Sarawak.

The desired park covers 283,500 hectares (700,543 acres) and is located within Sarawak, near the Indonesian border – between the Transboundary Biodiversity Conservation Area of ​​Pulong Tau National Park and Kayan Mentarang National Park in East Kalimantan.

In 2020, the Malawian government filed a petition with the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTO), which has ratified it and now seeks funding from member states.

Opposition to deforestation

Despite this, the affected areas of Gerenai FMU say Samling’s pricing depends on the forest they want and undermines the right of people to manage their forests.

Area facing Baram Peace Park / Upper Baram Forest Area [Courtesy of The Borneo Project]

In Upper Limbang, the Penan areas affected by Ravenscourt FMU are some of the last Penans to be settled and many still live short lives, relying on forests is of paramount importance.

“Inside Ravenscourt FMU and the surrounding areas there are other Penan groups that have followed their nomadic lifestyle until recently and today are unstable, spending a lot of time in the wild, hunting, fishing and gathering.

“Their dependence on forest ecosystems is more important than the citizens of Sarawak, and they have been strongly opposed to deforestation since the 1980’s,” he said in a statement, written with the support of Komeok Joe and the Penan Keruan advocacy group.

“As long as the company clears the forest, we are not in agreement,” said Penan Headman Peng Megut from Long Tevenga in Upper Limbang.

Human rights activists and environmental activists, working with stakeholders, demanded a temporary ban on logging in all law enforcement agencies while the process of resolving disputes is underway and the release of relevant cultural and environmental reports.

Jettie Word, director of the Borneo Project in California, which brings global interest and support in the fight for forest protection, health and human rights, said her organization has been supporting the affected areas of the Gerenai and Ravenscourt FMU and helped establish Baram Peace Park. .

“We are pleased that the MTCC understands the magnitude of the issue to open a solution to the conflict, however, the big question is whether Samling and SIRIM will be kept within the required standards, or whether they are just looking at the boxes – against Human Rights Abuse, original and informed consent – is enough for these organizations. Malawi, “said Word.

He also mentioned the challenges that communities face in trying to appeal to the MTCC.

Areas affected are rural and reaching Upper Baram or Limbang requires a difficult journey from the nearby city of Miri on unpaved roads. It takes four to five hours from Miri to get near the Gerenai permit, to reach Ravenscourt camp requires a flight from Miri to the town of Lawas and another five to six hours by 4X4. When we live in rural areas, we have limited access to health care, electricity and other basic necessities.

In Upper Baram and Limbang, the petitioning and gathering of local responses were conducted by community representatives and advocacy groups in the area.

“The grievance mechanism has been difficult to identify even organizations and individuals with reliable internet access and email – how can people living, without access to these tools, be able to understand their grievances?

“It’s a big job, and it’s an impossible thing to do in this (rain forest)” said Word.

Penan leaders from Upper Limbang oppose Samling’s Ravenscourt FMU [Courtesy of KERUAN]


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