Saturday, September 13, 2008

Human rights violations, Loss of native customary rights to the Indigenous peoples of Malaysia

What Rainforest?

WHAT’S “WHAT RAINFOREST?” (sticky post, scroll down for updates)
September 12, 2008, 1:48 am
Filed under: Campaign

What Rainforest? is a non-profit collective of individuals and NGOs concerned about the state of the Malaysian rainforests and its inhabitants.

What Rainforest was launched to counter the myth perpetuated by the government and pro-logging, pro-plantation corporate interests that everything is fine with the Malaysian rainforest.

The common rhetoric is Malaysia is under 65% forest cover AND amazingly that figure has not reduced since Rio Summit 1992 even though thousands and thousands of hectares including production forests in so-called Forest Reserves were cleared for development. Promoter of oil palm, possibly the biggest deforestation driver will have you believe that this monoculture plantation is as good as forest and that will push up Malaysia forest cover to 80%.

We also aim to highlight the human rights violations, loss of native customary rights (NCR) land and the poverty entrenchment of the indigenous people of Malaysia that is at the heart of deforestation since 1970s.

Currently, we aim to highlight these plights through posting related media reports on this website and by organizing public awareness campaigns.

Through this, we hope to achieve the following by working with (or pressuring, when necessary) the governments, industry, NGOs, and all relevant stakeholders:
- Restore the rights of the indigenous people of Malaysia
- Stop deforestation
- Reverse deforestation

What Rainforest? is also the title of a film that inspired its filmmakers to start this campaign and website. We constantly seek venues where we can organize screenings to create more awareness on the issue. If you have are interested to screen the film at your school, college, university, church, temple, synagogue, clubhouse, office, home, or backyard or your friends and communities; do drop us an email at

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Video Report : Orang Asal March To Palace
September 13, 2008, 6:01 pm
Filed under: Campaign, Indigenous People, Land, Video Report

To mark the first anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration Of The Rights Of The Indigenous People (UN DRIP), the indigenous people of Malaysia’s planned a march to the national palace to submit a memorandum to His Majesty the King.

The group was soon stopped by the police despite assuarances that the march would be permitted with certain imposed restrcitions, all of which, the group have agreed to adhere to.

Read more about the event at

More Village Chiefs Sacked
September 12, 2008, 5:11 am
Filed under: Indigenous People, Media Reports

Village chiefs sacked for backing opposition
by Tony Thien

Seven ‘ketua kaum’ or village chiefs from the Bidayuh community in the Bau-Lundu area of western Sarawak were sacked effective from July 31 after they allegedly failed to heed a government warning against campaigning for the opposition during the March general election.

“They were all shocked to receive the letters terminating their services,” opposition State Reform Party (Star) president Dr Patau Rubis, a former state assistant minister, told Malaysiakini today.

The seven ketua kaum include Yassin Abdullah alias Jasin Anak Nuing of Kampung Tembawang and Ajom Noyek of Kampung Stenggang in Bau District. They received a memo from the state secretary’s office dated July 5, signed by Serudu Hoklai, informing them of the government’s decision to terminate their services effective from end July.

Ketua kaum are elected by each village and part of their role is to perform certain services for which they are paid a monthly allowance of RM300.

Warning letters had been issued to the seven by the Bau District Officer Tom Rem Mijod on March 3, five days before national polls began.

The DO said in his letter he had received several reports informing him that they were campaigning for the opposition rather than the candidate chosen by the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. He warned that if they did not stop, further action including termination could be taken against them.

Against universal rights

Star’s Patau said three of the ketua kaum had approached him for advice, and he had written to the state secretary Wilson Dandut, informing the latter that the termination was wrongful.

“It is against universal rights, and it is against human rights, and we are referring the case to Suhakam, the human rights organisation,” said Patau.

Patau also said the government should not allow political interference in the appointment of ketua kaum, whom he said acted as the last bastion for the community in protecting the rights to their ancestral land.

“If ketua kaum can be exploited, what will happen to the NCR land?,” he asked.

Meanwhile, four village chiefs have also approached state PKR legal adviser See Chee How, who is also the party’s Stampin division chief.

See said they are weighing what sort of legal action to take against the authorities.

Sarawak government deposes elected Penan leaders
September 10, 2008, 5:48 am
Filed under: Dams, Indigenous People, Land, Logging, Media Reports, Oil Palm, Pulp & Paper

09 September 2008

Authorities attempt to engineer the replacement of elected leaders by logging company stakeholders - Penan communities stand firmly behind their elected leaders

The Sarawak government is currently trying to engineer major changes in the leadership of the Penan communities in the Upper Baram region of the East Malaysian State on Borneo. In an attempt to break the resistance to logging in Sarawak’s last primeval rainforests, the authorities have ceased to recognise community leaders’ posts in a number of communities.

According to community reports, a government official recently announced to an assembly of Penan representatives from the Upper Baram that their leaders were no longer officially recognized. As a consequence, the government stopped paying the Penan leaders their monthly headman’s allowance of 450 Malaysian Ringgit (130 US$).

At Long Benali, a community that has successfully prevented timber group Samling from entering their Native Customary Rights land through blockades and a media campaign, headman Saun Bujang has been deposed. Currently, the government is trying to install a Samling stakeholder in his place.

At Long Sait, a Penan community on the River Selungo, headman Bilong Oyoi, who has always been outspoken against logging in the area, received a letter from the government which stated that he had been deposed. Bilong is one of the leading plaintiffs in a Penan land rights claim that has been pending since 1998.

Another plaintiff in this same case, the late Kelesau Naan, former headman of Long Kerong, disappeared near his paddy fields in October 2007. Two months later, he was found dead; the Penan suspect that he was murdered. The Long Kerong community has since elected a new headman, the former deputy headman Tirong Lawing. As the government has refused to recognize Tirong up until now, the community has no official headman.

The community of Long Lamai, which filed land rights litigation against Samling and the Sarawak State government in April 2007, does not have an official headman either. The former long-term headman, Belare Jabu, died in May 2007. His son Wilson Belare, the newly-elected community representative, has not yet been recognized by the Sarawak authorities.

“We protest against these violations of our right to elect our own leaders”, a Penan representative from the Upper Baram region said. “Despite all these attempts to undermine our leadership, the communities in the Upper Baram stand firmly behind their elected leaders.”

The non-recognition of the elected community headmen by the Sarawak State Government is a clear violation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration, which has been adopted by Malaysia, upholds in its article 18 the right of indigenous communities “to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures”.

What Rainforest? premiered at FFF 2008
September 9, 2008, 4:16 pm
Filed under: Campaign, Films, Indigenous People, Land, Logging, Oil Palm

Well, at last, What Rainforest -The Film was premiered at the Freedom Film Fest on Sept 6.

A 20-min version of the film was first launched in July in conjunction with What Rainforest – The Campaign targeting the 11th Rainforest World Music Festival in Santubong, Sarawak.

Being a rainy afternoon, the crowd trickled in slowly. At the start of the screening, I counted no more than 50 people in the screening room at the top floor of the Central Market Annexe – the hub for indie and progressive activities in the Klang Valley.

When the lights came on as the credits rolled, to our delight, the room was fully occupied! It might be the balmy, cozy atmosphere in the room, or maybe it’s the typical Malaysian way, the Q & A session got off to a slooow start only to see more hands going up as discussion became livelier towards the end.

The session was shared between two other films and WR. The one on the wonders of non-timber forest products (such as honey, wood resin etc) in India got some in the audience going oohs and aahs.

Yes, non-timber forest products (NTFP) are indeed heart-warming creatures.

Don’t miss the forest for the trees! There are so much more that the forests are providing us and that alone is a good reason to protect them.

Another good reason, as highlighted in the film Voices of the Forest – India, is the dependence of local communities on these natural bounties. The forests are their supermarkets, banks and safety nets. There is no need for international conferences to discuss poverty eradication if only governments around the world ensure that the forests are protected.

The 2nd film was on the Knaisaimos tribe in Papua, Indonesia. The film began with the erosion of traditional culture and hardships endured by the tribe with the advent of logging and ended on a positive note as the community found strength in their cultural values to forge a sustainable future.

Then came our film which challenged the official rhetoric of 60% forest cover. Malaysia in general but Sarawak in particular is fast turning into ‘Sawit Republic’. At the heart of this phenomenon is the violation of Native Customary Rights which in my opinion is akin to daylight robbery sanctioned by the state.

Segan and Lumat - the Iban couple from Kg Lebor featured in the film – were duely introduced to the audience. Segan was even given a sort of standing ovation when he was called to the stage. He related his experience of standing up against the bulldozer and his community intimate relationship with the land.

Throughout the 3-day festival, the couple also sold their handicrafts and Lumat even managed to weave three bamboo baskets in between catching some films and chatting with visitors.

Many visitors signed the petition ( calling on the government to respect the fundamental rights of the Sarawak natives. For their support to our fellow Malaysians and to make this country a better place, we reward them with the unique WR sticker and windscreen sticker.

We’re having our eyes peeled looking out for these stickers on the road AND an increased traffic to this website.

Next, Johor Baru here we come!

‘til then … adios!

What Rainforest? Rescreens / Perjuangan Orang Asal - The Strive Of The Indigenous Peoples
September 8, 2008, 12:24 am
Filed under: Campaign, Dams, Films, Indigenous People, Land, Logging, Oil Palm, Pulp & Paper

2 things are happening this week in Kuala Lumpur…

1) What Rainforest? Rescreens in KL

For those who came to watch What Rainforest?, thank you very much… it has been a pleasure having you as an audience…

For those who weren’t there, don’t worry. What Rainforest? will be rescreened at the Central Market Annexe as part of ‘PERJUANGAN ORANG ASAL - THE STRIVE OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES ‘ an exhibition organized by the Jaringan Orang Asal Semalaysia (JOAS).

Details of the screenings are as follows

date : 11 September 2008 (Thursday)
time : 9.00 PM
venue : Central Market Annexe Gallery
website :

Also visit this site for more information on the exhibition.

2) Perjuangan Orang Asal - The Strive Of The Indigenous Peoples

Date: 10.09.2008 - 14.09.2008
Time: 11.00 AM - 07.00 PM

The Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) is hosting a series of events on indigenous peoples and rights in Malaysia to celebrate the first year anniversary of the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP).

Though most of the events are not open to members of the public, there are a few that are. These events include:

1. A public exhibition on indigenous peoples of Malaysia, their contributions as well as current challenges. The exhibition includes photographs by orang asal as well as activists like Colin Nicholas, and also an installation of a typical blokade used by the orang asal to prevent developers’ vehicles from entering their territories.

2. A cultural night of exchange with performances by members of the orang asal communities. Guaranteed more authentic than Citrawarna. Sat 13 Sep, 7pm, an all-night revelry!

3. A private workshop from 10-12 Sep to discuss the final draft of a memorandum on indigenous peoples rights. While this workshop is NOT open to the public, supporters are welcome to join them in the handover of the memorandum to DYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang DiPertuan Agung on Sat 13 Sep, 9am. Come earlier and meet at The Annexe Gallery if you like to join.

Members of the media are invited to attend all events. Please contact Sean Rubis at [; 012 883 7937] or Jen Rubis at [; 013 873 7676].

see you there.

Malaysia Boleh : Sarawakian Logging Company Busted In Papua New Guinea
September 7, 2008, 5:34 pm
Filed under: Indigenous People, Logging

Greenpeace activists occupies a Rimbunan Hijau cargo ship for 55 hours in Papua New Guinea. See the full story and video here.

For a quick read up on Rimbunan Hijau, check out its wikipedia entry.

If you have lots of time. Read Greenpeace’s report ‘The Untouchables: Rimbunan Hijau’s world of forest crime and political patronage’.

Sign The Petition To Restore The Rights Of The Indigenous People Of Sarawak
September 6, 2008, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Campaign, Dams, Indigenous People, Land, Logging, Oil Palm, Pulp & Paper

Sign the below petition at the following website:

To: Prime Minister Of Malaysia
Dear Prime Minister Y.A.B. Dato’ Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi,
(cc: The Chief Minister Of Sarawak, Pehin Sri Dr. Haji Abdul Taib bin Mahmud)

We are gravely concerned and disturbed by the legal genocide of the indigenous groups commonly known as the Dayaks which has been taking place for almost the past three decades in Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia.

This is taking the form of a massive native land grab through a legal and systematic means of forcing them to give up their ancestral lands or lands over which they have native customary rights that are recognized by the country’s highest courts and the Sarawak Land Code and giving away of such lands to companies closely connected with State Government leaders, the political elites and cronies.

By losing their NCR lands, they lose their farms, the forests where they collect timber for housing, where they go out for hunting and for fishing. And they continue to suffer on account of the insatiable greed of the politicians in power who clearly show scant regard for human rights as food crops and homes are often bulldozed and the natives left landless and homeless.

Even the law-enforcement agencies, particularly the Police, are colluding with the plantation companies and failing or refusing to act when the affected indigenous farmers lodge official complaints against encroachment of their NCR land and the destruction to their crops and properties.

This system of legal genocide continues unabated in the face of a deliberate collusion between State Government leaders and large commercial interests and is leading to an extremely dangerous situation as the authorities even resort deploy the Police and even Army to make arrests when the natives put up a stand to defend their ancestral farming lands.

We are therefore extremely concerned at the land grab that is going on in Sarawak as this would lead to serious consequences and implications for the future well-being and livelihood of the indigenous groups of Sarawak, especially the non Muslim Dayaks people.

We strongly support the indigenous people’s struggle to protect their land for their survival. We demand that the:

1. The Federal Government of Malaysia shall undertake to revise inconsistent laws in order to abide by Article 5 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia which enshrines the guarantee of right to life for every inhabitant of its land
2. State Government of Sarawak to uphold the Native Customary Rights (NCR) as guaranteed under the Sarawak Land Code (1958) and to recognize the NCR status of all affected parties who can prove the existence of their claim to these rights
3. State Government of Sarawak shall respect and abide by the case precedent established by the Federal Court of Malaysia’s decision of Madeli Salleh vs Government of Sarawak, which states very clearly that the customary rights of inhabitants were recognized and accepted by the British Crown when it governed Sarawak. It became part of common law and therefore shall be recognized as being a fundamental right.
4. State Government of Sarawak shall cease the issuance of “provisional leases” (PL) for NCR disputed land with immediate effect
5. The Federal Government of Malaysia shall recognize the relevance of all convenants and instruments on human rights and make haste to ratify and to conform to all these said Charters.
6. State Government of Sarawak shall undertake to provide protection for the safety of the
indigenous people to stop them from all forms of harassment, intimidation and threats of physical and bodily harm that arises from land disputes
7. In instances before NCR land is requested for commercial development via partnerships with
government agencies and/or private sector initiatives, it shall be an imperative condition that free,fair,prior and informed consent be obtained from the affected communities in accordance to the principles of transparency, the principles of right of access to information and the principle of the inherent to know by all parties involved.

If the State Government of Sarawak fails to comply with the above demands, then the Federal Government of Malaysia must come forward to take appropriate steps to protect NCR lands, the lives and livelihoods of the indigenous people.

The Undersigned

Correction : What Rainforest Screening Schedule
September 4, 2008, 12:10 am
Filed under: Campaign, Films

A grave mistake has been made in the previous announcement. I stated that What Rainforest? screens every Saturday at 2.30 pm. This is a mistake.

What Rainforest screens at 2.00 pm… not 2.30 pm. Much apologies. Once again, What Rainforest SCREENS AT 2.00 PM EVERY SATURDAY.

Sorry for the inconvenience… hope to see everyone this Saturday.

KTS replies in the Borneo Post
September 1, 2008, 10:23 am
Filed under: Indigenous People, Land, Logging, Media Reports, Oil Palm

KTS refutes the report by The Star… through the Borneo Post, a newspaper belonging to the Borneo Post Sdn. Bhd, a subsidiary of KTS holdings.

Here are 2 media reports from the Borneo Post…

Longhouse chief refutes erroneous report
By Churchill Edward and Yunus Yussop
28 August 2008

BINTULU: Rumah Ado head, Ado Bilong, whose 65-door longhouse at Sungai Kakus in Tatau was gutted by fire on Aug 21, yesterday refuted reports by a national newspaper that a “timber giant” had only given them salt as relief aid.

Describing the report carried by the national paper as “invalid statement” of a certain local party, Ado said contrary to that report, the victims had in fact received both financial aid and assistance in kind.

“I am making this clarification because some party had made invalid statement as reported in the newspaper a few days ago,” Ado stressed in a signed statement in Bahasa Malaysia dated yesterday.

In the statement she said the victims had received cash amounting to RM102,500 from KTS Group of Companies on top of assistance like food, cooking oil, drinking water and other cooking necessities from Gabung Trading Sdn Bhd of Kakus, Tatau.

Ado said of the sum, RM5,000 was for her as the head of the longhouse while each of the affected families would get RM1,000 and food items worth RM500.

“With this, I would like to certify this letter is true,” Ado said in the statement she signed before her deputy Gabriel Jaya P Kanun.

A total of 710 people were made homeless when fire razed the Punan longhouse, believed to be more than 100 years old and about two hours’ drive from here.

The victims were unable to save anything in the 1.30pm blaze and loss to property was estimated at RM3.19 million, said National Punan Association (NPA) secretary Dennis Lakiah.

“This (estimated loss) is based on our longhouse committee’s calculation,” Dennis had said.

According to him, the victims are now temporarily putting up in makeshift shelters, relatives’ houses and at a nearby timber camp.

He said most of these affected residents were involved in birds’ nest business, fishing and farming while some worked at the nearby logging camp.

He added that more than 1,000 others were not affected because they lived in detached homes.

Report fabricated, says Tatau penghulu
By Yunus Yussop
30 August 2008

BINTULU: Penghulu Sanok Magai, who was reported in a national newspaper recently as having received only two packets of salt from a timber company as aid for the victims of Rumah Ado, whose 65-longhouse at Sungai Kakus in Tatau was gutted by fire on August 21, yesterday denied he had any knowledge of the matter.

“I hereby categorically deny having knowledge of any such incident of a timber giant giving only two packets of salt to the fire victims,” Sanok said in a signed statement dated yesterday.

In the statement, he said the allegations in the Star newspaper was false, alleging that he was asked to pose for the photo holding two packets of salt without being informed of the reason for doing so.

Sanok in the statement also said it was done with bad intentions.

“As far as I know, Gabung Trading Sdn Bhd which is part of the KTS Group has greatly assisted the villagers of longhouses especially building the road to the longhouses, preparing water reservoir, giving contributions for expenses every Gawai

and Christmas festivals,” Sanok said in the statement signed before Tatau District officer Jonathan Lugoh.

Sanok also said the company was the source of transportation for the longhouse villagers, and also provided plenty of job opportunities to them.

He stressed that Gabung and KTS assisted the victims immediately after the fire.

Gabung Trading Sdn Bhd, Kakus Camp manager Ling Uong Chong, KTS Trading Sdn Bhd Shipping and Logs Department Bintulu branch supervisor Soo Yii Chiong together with several reporters went to Tatau yesterday to meet Sanok to clarify the issue.

Govt allocates RM50 million for Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil Fund
September 1, 2008, 10:09 am
Filed under: Indigenous People, Land, Media Reports, Oil Palm


KUALA LUMPUR, 29 Aug 2008: The government will allocate RM50 million to provide a Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Fund to support community programmes and conservation programmes.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the fund will be used to support community programmes such as upgrading of schools in plantation and conservation programmes such as enhancing biodiversity in plantations.

“Malaysia is one of the largest palm oil producers in the world. To enhance global acceptance of palm oil, there is a need to demonstrate strong social and environmental responsibility in our business practices,” he said when tabling the 2009 Budget in Parliament here today.

He said the government therefore fully supported the initiative by palm oil plantations to obtain RSPO certification.

RSPO certification takes into account not only good agriculture practices but also responsible social and environmental management.

The certification will ensure plantation companies carry out their businesses the sustainable way. – Bernama

KTS : Recipient Of The First Annual What Rainforest Golden Bastard Award
August 27, 2008, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Indigenous People, Logging, Media Reports, Oil Palm

We at What Rainforest? would at all times, try our level best to maintain our tact and decorum. However, sometimes, some timber companies do not deserve such treatment; not when they have the heart to insult the very people who very much deserves their appreciation.

Hence, for the noble act of offering two packs of salts to the Punan people of Ulu Tatau, we would like to award KTS What Rainforest?’s First Annual Golden Bastard Award.

We thank the Star for exposing this atrocity. However, we deplore the fact that the Star (we believe that it was not the reporter’s intention) attempted to protect KTS by not revealing the company’s name. Thanks to reliable sources, We proudly bring you this little piece of information.

Below are 3 articles picked up from the Star in regards to the matter.

Homeless Fire Victims See Timber Giant’s Aid As Insult
by Stephen Then, August 26 2008

MIRI: The 600 Punans who were made homeless when a fire razed their longhouse in Ulu Tatau, central Sarawak, said they felt hurt, insulted and humiliated when a timber giant gave them aid in the form of packets of salt.

The hungry and tired victims from Rumah Ado, located five hours by timber road from Bintulu, had been appealing for help from the Government and some timber companies operating in the Tatau district after the fire on Thursday.

Yesterday, the manager of a private logging consortium, which has its headquarters in Sarawak but with several overseas projects, handed the fire victims two packets of salt each.

Punan leader Penghulu Sanok Magai received the salt at the fire site in front of hundreds of victims.

However, the Punan National Association is fuming mad and its publicity chief Calvin Jemarang described the act as cruel and heartless.

“Why must this timber company insult the fire victims like this? If it is reluctant to give any aid, then do not give anything,” he said.

“These victims are homeless, have little food and drink and their future is uncertain, and yet this timber company humiliated them like this.”

Relief aid has been slow in arriving. The Bintulu Welfare Department has been sending rice, clothing and noodles in limited amounts because of logistic problems.

Jemarang appealed to politicians and private firms to give more aid.

Salt Is All They Give After ‘Milking’ Land
by Stephen Then, 27 August 2008

MIRI: The timber giant that rubbed salt into the wounds of the 600-plus Rumah Ado fire victims in Ulu Tatau in central Sarawak has logging concessions and oil palm projects in the state encompassing nearly 100,000ha – about 1.5 times the size of Singapore island.

This private consortium is involved in projects such as timber extraction, construction, agriculture plantations, engineering and heavy industries.

Two days ago, a manager of this consortium gave two packets of salt to each of the Punan natives of Rumah Ado, who lost their homes during a fire last Thursday after the residents appealed to the timber giant for relief.

The Punan National Association labelled this gesture as inhumane, with association publicity chief Calvin Jemarang condemning the act as insulting and humiliating to the fire victims.

Yesterday, The Star received a call from a church worker in Belaga district near Bakun, complaining that this same company had refused to give a single sen to some 300 fire victims from his longhouse that was gutted a few years ago.

“They have a logging camp not far from our longhouse. The management refused to help. Some labourers at the camp gave us rice and clothing out of pity, but the management simply refused to give anything,” said the church worker.

Sources from a government department in Bintulu yesterday disclosed that this company had secured almost 100,000ha of land development projects.

In the meantime, two other timber giants – Samling Corporation and Grand Perfect – have ferried construction materials and rice to help the fire victims, while the Red Crescent and the Lions Club in Bintulu have chipped in with material aid, food and medicine.

Sarawak MP Slams Salt Aid For Punans As ‘Tasteless Act’
by Sim Leoi Leoi, August 27 2008

KUALA LUMPUR: The matter of 600 homeless Punans receiving packets of salt as food aid from a timber company has irked Sarawak MPs.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui, who is also MP for Miri, said the gesture of giving the salt was “very disrespectful – to the extent of being arrogant.”

“I have directed the Malaysian Timber

Industry Board to contact the Sarawak Forestry Board to find out, which company is involved.

“This is so that I will be able to know for certain what is going on. But from what I read from a newspaper report, such aid sounds very artificial on the part of the timber company,” he said in an interview at the Parliament lobby here yesterday.

Chin was responding to a report that the Punans, victims of a fire which razed their longhouses in Ulu Tatau, central Sarawak, last Thursday, had received packets of salt after appealing for help from the Government and some timber companies operating within the district.

Chin said such a gesture from the timber company was “very unusual.”

“I want to look into the issue very closely. Why should aid be given in this manner? What do the packets of salt symbolise?” he asked.

Backbenchers’ Club chairman Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, who is also Bintulu MP said the timber company involved had benefited from the Government’s concession of logging rights.

“It’s only right that they help the fire victims in their area by giving them food aid in their time of need and difficulty.

“It’s part of their social obligation,” he pointed out.

Tiong said by giving the victims packets of salt, the company showed that it had “no humanitarian side” at all.

What Rainforest? premiers At Freedom Film Festival, 6 September 2008
August 25, 2008, 1:45 am
Filed under: Campaign, Films, Indigenous People, Land, Logging, Oil Palm

‘What Rainforest?’ the film premiers at the Freedom Film Festival on 6 September 2008.

The film will screen every Saturday at 2.00pm together with 2 other environmental films (Voices Of The Forest & The Indigenous People of Knasaimos) at these venues:

6 September - Central Market Annexxe, Kuala Lumpur
13 September - Tropical Inn, Johor Bharu
20 September - Old Court House, Kuching
27 September - Wawasan Open University, Penang

The filmmakers, Hillary Chiew and chi too will be at the screenings to answer questions during the Q&A session that follows the screening. Special guests and experts will also be making appearances.

This 35 minute film will also be available for sale in DVD format for a minimum donation of RM 20. The DVD will also include ‘Penusah Tana’, as bonus material.

Email for more information.

For a full schedule of all the films screened at the Freedom Film Festival 2008, click here.

Taib implicated in Indon timber scam
August 24, 2008, 2:17 am
Filed under: Logging, Media Reports

Tony Thien | Aug 23, 08 3:55pm

Indonesian logs are being illegally imported into Sarawak and re-
exported as local timber to other countries, including China, Taiwan
and Japan, according to an Indonesian newspaper report.

In the Aug 14 edition of the Tribun Pontianak, the Pontianak-based
Indonesian language daily also implicated chief minister Abdul Taib
Mahmud and Hardwood Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned unit of state agency
Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC).

dominique ng interview 010606 gesturing”The good name of the chief
minister and that of the government-owned company have been marred by
the report,” Sarawak PKR chief Dominique Ng told Malaysiakini.

Ng said PKR will lodge a report with the Anti Corruption Agency on the
matter. According to him, the Tribun Pontianak report was serious
enough to warrant immediate investigation by the authorities here,
especially since Indonesia and Malaysia have an existing agreement
prohibiting the illegal export of logs.

“Let the relevant authorities carry out an immediate and thorough
investigation,” said Ng, who is also assemblyperson for Padungan.

The front-page news report was accompanied by a chart detailing how
logs were being transported illegally from the forests in Ketapang and
how they were being shipped out of West Kalimantan to two places. The
names of some middlemen purportedly involved in the scam were also

According to the report, several individuals were charged in an
Indonesian court for complicity in illegal timber trade, including the
forest controller for the area, a M Darwis. The report said Darwis
admitted to receiving bribe money from the individuals in exchange for
allowing the logs to be iilegally taken out of Ketapang.

The forest controller told the court the bribe money amounted to
between Rp 10 million and Rp 40 million for each shipment of between
800 and 1,000 cubic metres of timber.

About 30 shipments of illegal logs worth some Rp2.16 trillion (about
RM750,000) were being taken out either by land or sea across to the
East Malaysian state every month.

An Indonesian-based NGO together with a UK-based NGO investigating the
illegal timber trade in Indonesia had gone undercover to Sarawak,
where they traced the eventual destination of the logs.

The name of Hardwood Sdn Bhd was implicated, although Tribun Pontianak
erroneously reported the firm was owned by ‘the governor of Sarawak’
Abdul Taib Mahmud.

The news report also highlighted a dialogue the European Commission
had in Kuching with various stake-holders and NGOs on issues of the
legality of the timber being exported to Europe.

The legality issue is tied to, among other things, the sources of the
timber and respect for the rights of indigenuous groups living on the
land from which the timber is extracted.

Malaysiakini understands some of the logs end up being processed by
local industries, which would otherwise face a shortage because of an
increase in manufacturing activities and also because Sarawak still
allowed the export of timber. Up to 40 percent of the total annual
production of round logs is exportable.

Timber is one of Sarawak’s main earners accounting for several
billions of ringgits in export revenue each year.

A Letter To The Borneo Post (July 28, 2008)
August 18, 2008, 10:37 am
Filed under: Campaign, Media Reports

Dear Editor

I refer to your report dated July 16, 2008 on page 17 - Festival organisers regret action of activists.

I would like to point out to you an inexcusable error which identified Parti Keadilan Rakyat vice president Sivarasa Rasiah as the leader of the What Rainforest? Demonstration at the entrance of the Sarawak Cultural Village on July 13.

For your information, the said demonstration was organised by the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) and led by me as its secretary-general.

In fact, I was there trying to make a speech to highlight the plight of the Sarawak indigenous people as symbolically represented by the 60 Ibans whose livelihood and culture are afflicted by largely oil palm-based land grab incidents.

YB Sivarasa was at the SCV as the RWMF festival-goer and like other symphatisers showed up at the candlelight vigil on his own will. As a human rights lawyer, he intervened when he overheard the police threatened to arrest me.

Therefore, it’s baffling to me that your reporter could get his/her facts so glaringly wrong!

What is more appalling is the article only sought the views of the RWMF’s organiser but didn’t bother to seek any clarification from me or YB Sivarasa.

That to me reflected the biasness of your publication and the shoddy, unprofessional and unethical reporting of Borneo Post.

On July 14, the same appalling journalism standards were applied in your page 4 report.

Although the leaflet reported to disseminate ‘sarcastic’ message didn’t carry the name of the campaign organiser but the website - was made available.

Your reporter and editor should have made an effort to contact us for comments and give us the opportunity to enlighten him/her on why the RWMF was targeted instead of making your own conclusion that the campaign was ‘barking up the wrong tree’.

As such, it’s my sincere hope that you will publish a correction soonest.

For good measure, I will inform YB Sivarasa of this misleading report which implied that the campaign was politically-motivated thus dismissing its legitimate concerns.

Note: This letter was faxed to Borneo Post on July 28, 2008. however, until today (Aug 18 ) Borneo Post has yet to publish a correction.

S’wak to earnestly weigh Suhakam’s advice relating to land: Masing
August 13, 2008, 3:48 am
Filed under: Dams, Indigenous People, Land, Logging, Media Reports, Oil Palm, Pulp & Paper

The Borneo Post, 13 August 2008

KUCHING: The state government will seriously consider the various recommendations made in a newly-released report by Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) pertaining to land rights and issues.

Land Development Minister Dato Sri Dr James Masing said yesterday he concurred with researcher Dr Ramy Bulan, who was commissioned by Suhakam to prepare the report, that certain land issues could not be solved using the current law.

“That is why this research looked into that, on whether we can review some of the canons of the law regarding land to make it more applicable in settling issues,” he said to reporters after launching the report titled ‘Legal Perspectives On Native Customary Land Rights In Sarawak’.

Earlier, Masing in his speech said the Sarawak Land Code 1958, which governed the creation of native titles, had gone through several amendments in 1996 and 2000.

“In some of the amendments, native rights to land ownership in accordance to their customary practices may have been eroded.

“It is this aspect of erosion through legislative process which puts pressure on the authorities to review their decisions on the matter,” he added.

Masing said the government was highly appreciative of Suhakam’s effort in producing the report, as it was indeed right and proper that Suhakam assisted the government in a matter which was both critical and sensitive.

“Most of Suhakam’s members are public figures in their own profession. Suhakam’s expertise will be of great help in mediating over sensitive issues such as rights over land,” he said.

Masing also took the opportunity during the speech and the press conference later to hit back at people who wrongly wrote reports about the government and those who were not genuinely interested in solving the land issues.

Firstly, Masing reminded writers of a report entitled Land Is Life (by Marcus Colchester, Wee Aik Pang, Wong Meng Chu and Thomas Jalong) that his ministry would not enter into any NCR land for the purpose of planting oil palm or any other commercial crops unless invited to do so.

“In short, we will not force ourselves to develop their NCR land prior to consent given by the land owners. Even if we are invited, it is compulsory for each and every land owner who wishes to participate in the NCR new concept of land development to sign separate consent forms.

“Therefore, the question of ‘lack of respect for customary rights, absence of the principle of free, prior and informed consent, or people’s right to choose for themselves on what to plant and how to do it’, does not arise,” he said.

Later, at the press conference, Masing said there were certain people who were only interested to bring up land issues in the media for the sake of publicity and personality mileage.

He pointed out that land issues must be solved by people who were genuinely interested in doing it and not by people who did it for the sake of being champions of the natives.

He said he had also come across ‘naughty’ people who further complicated matters and created a lot of fuss by claiming rights over land that was not rightfully theirs.

“There are people who do not want it to end and keep it going to the media but there are people in the government who are doing it away from the glare of the media and wanting this to end and are finding the solution,” he said.

To a question by reporters, he said encroachment by illegal loggers on native land was also a problem and he urged the relevant authorities such as the police and Forestry Department to act on complaints.

“We have received reports that illegal logging happens quite a lot in Bintulu Division. The authorities concerned should act and do something about this,” he said.

According to the statement prepared by Suhakam, it has received numerous complaints from various indigenous groups in Sarawak on land issues.

Since the establishment of Suhakam’s office in Sarawak in the year 2000, a total of 158 of the 287 complaints received since then were related to native customary rights to land.

As such, Suhakam has commissioned Dr Ramy, who is also an associate professor from the Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya, to carry out the research and prepare the report which eventually became Legal Perspectives On Native Customary Land Rights In Sarawak.

Dr Ramy, a Kelabit, did the research together with a student of American Indian (tribe of USA) origin Amy Locklear. She also presented a talk on Indigenous People and Land Rights: National and International Perspectives after the launching of the report.

Pow-wow on 12-dam project
August 13, 2008, 3:46 am
Filed under: Dams, Indigenous People, Land, Media Reports

The Star, 13 August 2008

KUCHING: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) will bring various stakeholders together next month to discuss the proposed construction of 12 hydroelectric dams in Sarawak.

Commissioner Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria said the dialogue would provide an opportunity for government agencies and the relevant parties to openly discuss the projects and their implications.

“Various groups and parties have raised concerns over the building of the 12 dams,” he told reporters after a Suhakam dialogue with NGOs and the media in Sarawak here yesterday.

“Some have supported the projects, others have questioned their sustainability and raised concerns over the environment.”

Dr Denison said state agencies, federal ministries, consultants and NGOs representing the affected communities would be invited to participate.

“It will provide an opportunity for people to understand what the government’s planning on this is, as well as the concerns raised by environmentalists, civil society and the indigenous people,” he said.

He said Suhakam’s main concern was the displacement of indigenous communities as a result of the dams.

“Twelve dams means many people will be displaced in the interior, and even heritage sites,” he said.

“It’s going to affect traditional land, livelihood and the sustainable development of the communities, and Suhakam can provide an environment to debate and discuss these issues,” Dr Denison added.

Suhakam will publish its findings based on the discussion, he added.

Fellow commissioner Datuk Dr Michael Yeoh said Suhakam could play an important role – as a bridge between Government, the affected communities, NGOs, and professional consultants and the companies promoting the projects.

“By providing that bridge we can bring people to a roundtable discussion of the issues at hand.”

Sarawak Boleh : Samling Earns International Recognition
August 12, 2008, 1:13 am
Filed under: Indigenous People, Land, Logging

UN Indigenous Peoples’ Day – Survival names ‘unholy trinity’
from, 8 August 2008

To mark the UN Day for Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, Survival International today named its ‘unholy trinity’ – the three worst companies abusing tribal peoples’ rights. They are:

1. VEDANTA. This FTSE-100 company is determined to construct a bauxite mine on the sacred hills of the Dongria Kondh tribe in Orissa, India. It has already built a $1 billion aluminium refinery at the foot of the hills. The Dongria Kondh, one of India’s most isolated tribes, are resolutely opposed to the mine, which will destroy them as a people.

2. PERENCO. A Franco-British oil company, Perenco is pushing ahead with drilling in the nothern Peruvian Amazon, despite being warned that its operations risk the lives ofuncontacted Indian groups. The company’s plans have attracted two lawsuits from Peru’s Amazon Indians, but it has vowed to carry on. There have already been reports of contact between the oil workers and the isolated Indians.

3. SAMLING. Active in Sarawak, Malaysia, for four decades, Samling has been responsible for logging vast areas of rainforest, including the ancestral lands of the nomadic Penan tribe. The Penan have repeatedly blockaded logging roads in an attempt to halt the devastation of their forest, but much of it has now been destroyed. Many Penan have been arrested, and James Ho, Samling’s Chief Operating Officer, has said, ‘The Penan have no rights to the forest.’

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Mining, oil drilling and logging – these three companies work in very different fields, but they have one thing in common – a total disregard for the lives of the people whose lands they are destroying. It’s the same old story – these companies want the resources, and don’t care what happens to the people. They may refer to ‘corporate social responsibility’ these days, but few are taken in – it’s the absolute pursuit of profit and the sweeping aside of self-sufficient people.’

For further information please call (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or (+44) (0)7504 543 367 or email

SAM wants high-level probe into land grab claimsTh
August 7, 2008, 12:45 am
Filed under: Indigenous People, Land, Logging, Media Reports, Oil Palm, Pulp & Paper

The Star Online, 7 August 2008

KUALA LUMPUR: Sahabat Alam Malaysia has called for a Commission of Inquiry to probe the logging and plantation industry in Sarawak.

Hundreds of families from villages in Bintulu had been forcibly evicted by the authorities in the past year, it claims.

SAM council member Mohideen Abdul Kader said the Forestry Department and Land and Survey Department had issued licences to convert the land and forests in the area to plantations without obtaining the consent of the communities who have native customary rights (NCR).

Glyn Ingang, 32, from Kampung Mejau in Tatau, said they were only offered compensation of RM250 per hectare and they had not agreed to give up their land.

“There are 80 families in my village, and the concessionaires or the contractors just come in to demolish our longhouses and evict us,” he said.

“My ancestors have been living here for hundreds of years, long before Malaysia was formed.”

Bagong Swee, 49, from Kampung Sebungan in Sebauk, said the rubber trees which were cultivated by the locals were chopped down by hired workers, leaving them with no sources of income.

“They even polluted our river, and we can’t even use it to bathe as our skin will get itchy. Now, we only drink rainwater,” he said, adding that more than 250 families were affected.

Swee said the concessionaires had started an oil palm plantation on the land, and the villagers might have to resort to “harvesting” their oil palm to survive.

Marai Sengok, 27, from Kampung Binyo, said besides tearing down their longhouses and food storage huts, the workers had also destroyed their crops with pesticides.

“We could only stand and watch as they tore down our homes, as they are always accompanied by armed policemen,” he said.

“Sarawak must accord full recognition to NCR – both for cultivated and forest areas. The encroachment into NCR land must stop,” he said.

Sengok said it was disturbing that the Sarawak Forestry Department itself was the proponent for one of the projects involving 490,000ha of land.

He claimed the department had licensed 2.8 million heactares of largely forest land to 40 plantation concessions, mainly for planting oil palm and pulpwood trees, since 1997.

Sarawak opposition: Dams unnecessary
August 6, 2008, 4:55 pm
Filed under: Dams, Media Reports, 6 August 2008

by Tony Thien

Sarawak PKR chief Dominique Ng has come out lambasting the proposed building of 12 hydro dams in the state.

The dam projects - announced by state-owned public-listed Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) - will only endanger the environment, he said, adding that Sarawak had electricity self-sufficiency.

However the state claimed that the combined total of 7,000 MW from the 12 proposed dams was necessary for large energy intensive industries like aluminium smelter plants and for export - primarily to Peninsular Malaysia.

In a statement, Ng - the party’s sole elected assemblyperson - questioned both the independence and validity of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the projects and it effectiveness in influencing policy decisions.

“It is apparent that the EIA is in fact a piece of useless trash, self-fabricated to justify the 12 very large dams, but lacking any persuasiveness whatsoever,” he added.

Ng was commenting on last week’s statement by the Sarawak Environment and Public Health Minister Michael Manyin that decisions to build the 12 dams were to be based on mandatory EIAs following existing legislation.

State government must be transparent

He alluded to repeated opinions of environmental NGOs condemning the falsified information contained in government-sponsored EIAs which blatantly served as the tools to legitimise the construction of large dams.

Ng asked the government to be transparent and release all EIAs related to the dams, saying that the public must be allowed to evaluate the depth and comprehensiveness of the documents based on universally accepted parameters - factoring in the safety of human populations.

The Bakun dam project flooded primal tropical forest the size of Singapore and set a dangerous precedent. Bakun alone was enough to supply East Malaysia’s electricity needs, Ng explained.

“The 12 dams like Bakun will similarly be extravagant and unnecessary in the scale of electricity generation, wanton in environmental and biodiversity destruction, violent in the dispossession and displacement of ethnic groups, and unpredictable in future environmental calamity and payback,” the Padungan representative said.

Last Thursday the state cabinet in a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud approved the construction of the RM3 billion 940MW Murum Dam above Bakun dam, with the project awarded to a Chinese state-owned investment company China Three Gorges Project Corporation, builder of the world’s largest dam.

From nst 14.09.2008

KUALA LUMPUR: Police yesterday stopped a march by a group of indigenous people seeking greater protection of their rights.

Some 150 members of the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (JOAS) had planned to go to Istana Negara to hand over a memorandum to the king.

The memorandum was to urge the government to honour the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People (DRIP), to which Malaysia is a signatory.

Their demands included the establishment of an Orang Asli native court in Peninsular Malaysia, the repeal of laws which marginalise the Orang Asal or indigenous people and an end to the government's practise of leasing native customary rights land without consulting native communities.

Today is the first anniversary of the DRIP.
Dressed in traditional finery, the group had planned to walk from the Central Market Annexe to Istana Negara.

However, police ordered the group to disperse just as it stepped out of the building at 10.15am.

They claimed that police had earlier assured them that the march could go on.

"We were given assurances this morning.

"All we want is to walk to the palace to hand over the memorandum," JOAS president Adrian Lasimbang said.

Lasimbang said JOAS had sent letters to the authorities and palace officials two weeks ago to notify them of the march.

"But the police only responded two days ago. They sent us a letter asking us to go to the police station."

Dang Wangi police chief ACP Mohamad Zulkarnain Abdul Rahman said the police stopped the march because the organisers had failed to obtain a permit.

Forced to disperse, the group retreated into the Central Market building.

There, Lasimbang and two other JOAS representatives briefed the media on the contents of the memorandum.

The nine-page memorandum highlighted articles from the DRIP and the plight of the indigenous peoples of Malay-sia.

Among the issues were encroachment on native customary rights land, violation of the right to self-governance and pressures to assimilate.

"JOAS has carried out a study comparing the declaration with local policies concerning Orang Asal," said Lasimbang.

"It is sad that the policies don't meet the standards. We Orang Asal have been marginalised for so long.

"The government has a commitment to implement all policies according to the declaration

"The handing over of the memorandum to the king is a symbolic gesture.

"We want to create more awareness about our problems and hope the public will respect us," JOAS member Mark Bujang said.

He said the Orang Asli had been labelled "anti-development and anti-establishment" for decades.

"We're not anti-development. We just want it on our terms and any development must benefit our communities.

"We want to be included in the decision-making process."

Bujang said native land issues were especially important because the Orang Asli's identities were related to the land.

"Our lives are tied to the land. Land is sacred to us. How can you take our native land from us?"

Lifir Tangkak from the Jakun settlement of Kampung Buluh Nipis, Pahang, took an eight-hour bus ride to lend his support to the cause.

"The authorities don't recognise our rights. They take our land indiscriminately.


On 13 September 2008, the world will celebrate the first year anniversary of the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP). Over 370 million indigenous people in 70 countries are affected by this declaration which recognises our right to our distinct social, cultural, economic and political identities.

On Nov. 7, 2007, less than two months after the UN adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, Bolivia became the first country in the world to adopt the declaration as law when Morales announced the passage of National Law 3760, or the Rights of Indigenous peoples, legislation that is an exact copy of the UN declaration. The Peru congress has repealed two legislative declarations that were in conflict with the rights contained in the DRIP.

In Malaysia, our struggles for recognition of land rights continue. Nonrecognition and uncertainty over our land contributes to our continuing poverty and inability to develop our lands. The government’s development policies are making decisions for our future without our free, prior and informed consent. Though our situations may differ in each state, we are united in our common struggle for recognition of our land, our rights and our identity.

So, for the first time, we as indigenous peoples are gathering together to present to the Supreme Authority of Malaysia, DYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang DiPertuan Agung, a memorandum to urge the government to locally implement the DRIP and recognise our rights to land and to control, develop, and protect it for the benefit of our community and this nation.

On behalf of JOAS, we would like to invite our fellow indigenous peoples — Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia, Anak Negeri of Sabah and Dayaks and Orang Ulu of Sarawak to come with us on our walk to the Royal Palace. We also invite friends and supporters from civil society, environmental and human rights advocates and those who believe that our place as indigenous peoples within Malaysia needs to be recognised and reaffirmed by the Government and authorities to come with us on a Saturday morning walk and observe this historic event.

We will be gathering at Central Market on 13 September, Saturday and start walking toward the Royal Palace by 10am. For more information, please contact, or call Sean at 60128837937.

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