New report alleges Sarawak government, police, and loggers "act in collusion to harass and intimidate indigenous communities"Jeremy Hance
April 15, 2010
According to the report, there are currently 140 land dispute cases in limbo in the Sarawak courts. Indigenous groups are fighting loggers, oil palm plantation developers, and the paper industry for their tribal lands, yet indigenous tribes have not found advocates in state government.
"It frequently happens that rather than ensuring the law is being upheld, local authorities, police and loggers act in collusion to harass and intimidate indigenous communities," the 40 page report reads.
A new report alleges that Sarawak's natives have had little benefit from logging despite development promises by the state authorities. Copyright: Bruno Manser Fonds, which works with forest tribes in Sarawak.
Another indigenous group, the Penan, have also long struggled to have their rights over tribal lands respected. For example, an independent review found that Interhill Logging, a Sarawak-company, had abused the rights of the Penan people. According to the report Interhill Logging was conducting unsustainable logging of the rainforest and that there was "no inherent long-term development advantage" for the Penan people. Compensation for deforestation was given arbitrarily to the Penan and not recorded by the company. Worse incidences have also occurred. In 2008 an indigenous leader was allegedly murdered for his opposition to logging. More recently, the Sarawak government confirmed that a number of Penan girls were abused, molested, and raped by loggers.
In response to this situation, JOANGOHutan is calling on the European Union not to sign a timber trade agreement with Malaysia unless it "includes a mechanism that forces the Malaysian Government to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples." The agreement should also ensure that the state government "must uphold and implement all recent court judgements".
"We urge the Malaysian government and the European Union to ensure that any agreement is based on procedures in accordance with existing national and international human rights laws and instruments recognising the rights of indigenous peoples." Wong Meng Chuo, Director of JOANGOHutan, said in a press release.
Malaysia is the world's largest exporter of tropical timber and the second-largest producer of palm oil.
Sarawak logs are often harvested on native lands without the consent of the indigenous population. Copyright: Bruno Manser Fonds, which works with forest tribes in Sarawak.
In 2008, Sarawak timber exports atained a value of 7.4 billion Malaysian Ringgits (2.3 billion US $). Copyright: Bruno Manser Fonds, which works with forest tribes in Sarawak.
: Protests against logging by Sarawak's indigenous communities have mostly been disregarded by the state government. Copyright: Bruno Manser Fonds, which works with forest tribes in Sarawak.
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(12/10/2009) Five Penan rainforest communities are suing the Sarawak state government and the Malaysian timber giant Samling for violation of their native customary rights, reports the Bruno Manser Fund, a group that works on behalf of indigenous groups in Malaysia.
Malaysian land minister attacks credibility of young indigenous rape victims
(12/07/2009) Speaking to the BBC, James Masing, Sarawak Minister for Land Development, dismissed claims by Penan girls and women who said they had been sexually abused and raped by logging workers in a remote jungle area.
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(09/15/2009) An independent review of Interhill Logging found that the Sarawak logging company has regularly violated forest laws and abused the rights of the indigenous Penan peoples. The review, conducted by French tourism giant ACCOR, found that Interhill Logging had not received free, prior, and informed consent from the local Penan people for its logging operations; the logging being done by Interhill "is very definitely not sustainable"; the company is not fully compiling with Sarawak's Natural Resources and Environment Board; and Interhill is providing no long-term benefits to the Penan peoples.
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Penan tribe to continue blockade against loggers with blowpipes and spears
(09/01/2009) A meeting between the Penan indigenous tribe, Malaysian government officials, and representatives of a logging company ended without an agreement on Friday. After the meeting, a Penan spokesman declared that the group's blockade would continue. Blockaders, dressed in traditional garb, have armed themselves with blowguns and spears.