Malaysian Aboriginal communities “hope” over logging dispute | Sustainability News


Indigenous people from Sarawak, Malaysia’s Borneo Island, hope that they will oppose the Samling Group’s opposition to logging-covering an area roughly equivalent to the area of ??Luxembourg-and finally being taken seriously after the country’s Timber Certification Board ordered dispute mediation. Once complained about the plan a year later.

The Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) took action after 36 Penang, Kenya and Jamok indigenous communities from the Upper Limbang and Banan regions of Sarawak complained about the flaws in the certification of their two logging concessions.

The dispute involves two logging concessions from two forest management units (FMU): 148,305 hectares (366,469 acres) Gerenai FMU in Upper Barram and 117,941 hectares (292,438 acres) Ravenscourt FMU in Upper Linmeng.

As news of the dispute resolution process broke out, the community stated that they had received a letter from Samling, allegedly threatening to take legal action to express their concerns.

The community named Samling, one of Malaysia’s largest logging companies, and SIRIM QAS International, a testing, inspection and certification company based in Selangor, as parties to the dispute. Before obtaining MTCC certification, SIRIM QAS was employed by Samling to audit these areas. Both parties must respond to the complaint by July 15, after which the City Council will review the results of its investigation and announce its decision.

MTCC is accredited by the Forest Certification and Accreditation Scheme (PEFC), the leading international forest certification agency, and the agency also received a copy of the complaint, as did the Sarawak Forest Department and the National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM).

“In my opinion, this is the right approach taken by the MTCC,” Komeok Joe, the leader of Bennan, who led the Bennan advocacy organization Keruan and helped the Shanglinmeng Bennan community file a complaint, told Al Jazeera.

“The communities involved very much hope that the MTCC will make the right decision because they have responded to other communities before. We call for the publication of all relevant documents related to Sanlin’s timber business in order to establish appropriate consultation procedures and recognize that the forest’s The importance of livelihood, health and well-being.”

Three forest logging truck transports logs in Upper Baram, Sarawak [courtesy of The Borneo Project]

Thousands of aboriginal people living in northern Limbang and Baram area depend on forests for their physical and cultural well-being, and Baram River is the second largest river in the state. These areas are also home to critically endangered species, including gibbons, sun bears and hornbills, which are also threatened by logging programs.

Consent question

Last year, community members from Baram and Limbang Tell Al Jazeera Although Samling’s logging in their area has been certified as “sustainable” by the MTCC, they did not give free, prior and informed consent to any logging activities because they did not receive adequate consultation and were unable to obtain the impact submitted by social and environmental companies Evaluation.

In their complaint filed in May, the community emphasized the difference between Timber Commission certification and on-site implementation. They also pointed out the lack of transparency, Samling’s failure to properly negotiate with the community on logging issues, and they allegedly ignored the indigenous people’s dependence on forest resources and the community’s initiative to protect the forest.

In response to Al Jazeera’s questions via email, Samling stated that it had “repeatedly resolved these baseless allegations,” saying that these allegations “affected and tarnished” the company’s reputation.

It added that it has filed a legal action against Save Rivers, a non-profit organization that works in the area.

“In this case, we believe you will understand that we cannot freely make further comments on matters or issues related to pending procedures, including the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) dispute resolution procedures,” Samling’s head Tzee Ling Tia sustainable Sex, said in the email. “Samling insists that it complies with all the conditions and requirements imposed by the MTCC program.”

The indigenous communities also highlighted the shortcomings of the MTCC complaint mechanism.

“The core of the problem is Samling’s lack of understanding of the meaning of freedom, prior and consent,” said the complaint seen by Al Jazeera. “Contacting some selected people in the community is not the same as asking the community about what the community really wants.

“Although Samling is certifying their timber mining, many communities within FMU have a different view of their territory: they want to protect their forests, livelihoods, wildlife and ecotourism for future generations.”

The Orang Asli communities living in Upper Baram, Sarawak rely on forests for their physical and cultural well-being [Courtesy of The Borneo Project]

For example, in Upper Banan, the Kenyakamu and Penan communities have been committed to the establishment of Banan Peace Park (also known as Upper Banan Forest District)-a community-led initiative to protect Sarawak’s last virgin forest , To promote local culture and develop sustainable livelihoods.

The idea of ??the aboriginal democratically guided rainforest park stems from decades of struggle against logging and the development of natural resources, rooted in the wisdom and knowledge passed on from generation to generation, and they regard themselves as the guardians of the forest.

The proposal was first initiated by the community in 2009, supported by local and international NGOs, and was later adopted by the Sarawak Forest Department.

The proposed park covers an area of ??up to 283,500 hectares (700,543 acres) and is located deep inland in Sarawak, close to the Indonesian border-in the Transboundary Biodiversity Reserve of Pulongtou National Park in the state and Kayan in the neighboring East Kalimantan Between Mentarang National Park.

In 2020, the Malaysian government formally submitted the park’s proposal to the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTO), which officially approved the park and is currently seeking financial support from its member states.

Against logging

Despite this landmark step, communities affected by Gerenai FMU stated that Samling’s logging concession overlaps with their proposed forest park and ignores the community’s right to manage the forest.

Overlooking the landscape of the proposed Balan Peace Park/Upper Balan Forest Area [Courtesy of The Borneo Project]

In Shanglinmeng, the Penan community affected by Ravenscourt FMU was one of the last settled Penan communities. Many people still maintain a semi-nomadic lifestyle, which makes their dependence on the forest even more important.

“In and around Ravenscourt FMU, there are some Penan ethnic groups who have lived as a nomadic herder. Until recently, they are semi-settled today and spend a lot of time in the forest hunting, fishing and gathering.

“As a result, their dependence on forest resources is even higher than that of ordinary indigenous communities in Sarawak, and they have been strongly opposed to logging activities dating back to the 1980s,” they said in their complaint, which was filed in Komeok Joe and Sarawak Drafted with help. Penan advocacy group Keruan.

“As long as the company cuts down the forest, we will not agree,” said Penan Headman Peng Megut from Long Tevenga, Shanglinmeng.

Indigenous rights activists and environmental activists who work closely with affected communities have called for a temporary suspension of logging in the two concessions during the dispute resolution process and the release of critical social and environmental impact assessment reports.

Jettie Word, executive director of the California-based Borneo Project, said her organization has been supporting communities affected by Gerenai and Ravenscourt FMU and helping to establish Banan Peace Park.

“We are pleased that the MTCC fully understands the seriousness of the situation and is sufficient to initiate the dispute resolution process. However, the bigger question is whether Samling and SIRIM will comply with acceptable standards, or whether it is simply the act of ticking the checkbox-and It is not appropriate to have free, prior and informed consent-it is enough for these Malaysian entities,” Word said.

She also pointed out the difficulties faced by the community when trying to lodge a formal complaint with the MTCC.

The affected communities are located in remote areas. Starting from the nearest city of Miri, along the ruthless muddy road to Upper Balan or Limbang, it takes an arduous journey. It takes four to five hours from Miri to the nearest edge of the Gerenai concession area, and to reach the Ravenscourt base camp requires an internal flight from Miri to Lawas Town, and another five to six hours by 4X4. After arriving in the village, access to health care, electricity and other basic facilities is limited.

In Upper Banan and Linmeng, community representatives and local advocacy groups are responsible for drafting complaints and collecting community feedback.

“Even for organizations and people who have reliable access to the Internet and e-mail, the complaint mechanism is difficult to figure out-how can people who live indoors understand the complaint mechanism if they cannot use these tools?

“This is a difficult task, and it is an impossible task to complete in Ulu (the tropical rain forest),” Word said.

The leader of Bennan from Shanglinmeng is protesting against Samling’s Ravenscourt FMU [Courtesy of KERUAN]





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