December 14, 2010
Speaking to The Star last month, Masing said Sarawak would more than double its oil palm estate from the current 920,000 ha to 2 million hectares over the next decade. The state plans "more aggressive development" of native customary rights land (NCR), which covers an estimated 1.5 million hectares, but has been a point of conflict between industrial developers and traditional forest users like the Penan. The government has already approved more than 720,000 hectares of NCR land for joint-venture development, according to The Star.
Oil palm plantation in Sarawak, Malaysia. Courtesy of BMF
BMF attributes the difficulty in enforcing court rulings and environmental laws to corruption under Sarawak’s Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, who has ruled the state since 1981. Taib's family owns large overseas real estate holdings, the origin of which is unexplained.
According to The Star, private oil palm plantations make up about 80 percent of the total planted area in Sarawak. The major planters include Rimbunan Hijau Group, Ta Ann Holdings Bhd, Samling Group, Lembaga Tabung Haji and Boustead Group. Sime Darby Bhd and IOI Corp Bhd are also investing in expansion in the state.