Actions speak louder than words
By Clare Rewcastle
A few days back the chief executive of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), Yusof Basiron, launched an attack on Sarawak Report, claiming it was a “sinister voice” for criticising corrupt practices in the oil palm industry, including misleading PR campaigns funded by his organisation.
His standpoint was that the oil palm industry is all about helping smallholders and he even went so far as to accuse Sarawak Report of “mocking smallholders’, which is of course untrue.
Sarawak Report replied to this widely disseminated and coordinated attack by Yusof, which included lots of tweeting and Facebook attacks on MPOC-funded web vehicles.
However, there has now emerged two news stories, which answer Yusof far more effectively, in that they come from the mouths of smallholders themselves.
In the first case, native landowners from Tinjar and Serian have made a formal protest to Yusof’s MPOC for issuing orders to local mills not to receive their fruits, thereby ruining their crops and hard-earned livelihoods.
MPOB playing “judge and executioner” before decision in court
These native communities exercised their absolute and fundamental right to start legal proceedings against big agribusinesses, which they believe have illegally grabbed their native lands into their plantations.
In a press release today the hard-pressed native land- owners of Tinjar put it plainly:
“The villagers from the four villages in Tinjar have planted and harvested their own oil palm on their own native customary rights (NCR) land, but just because they are currently in a legal dispute with Boustead PELITA Tinjar Sdn. Bhd., a joint venture (JV) company between an oil palm company from Peninsular Malaysia, Boustead Holdings and the state owned agency, PELITA, over their NCR lands, MPOB refuses to buy oil palm from the villagers.
The villagers in Tinjar are not happy that MPOB is playing ‘judge and executioner’ and penalising the villagers before any decision is made in the court of law.”
Separately, villagers from Serian have also been excluded from the mills on the orders of the MPOC, as punishment for actually having WON their own case against another big company that was likewise intruding on their lands.
The smallholders point out that, even though they have won their case in a court of law, Yusof and the MPOC have taken the sides of the big agribusinesses and have brutally and illegally punished the smallholders for standing up for their rights:
“The courts have decided that the land is ours, how can MPOB accuse us of stealing on our own land”?
How indeed Yusof?
And how, under such circumstances, can the MPOC seriously claim to be championing smallholders, when he has shown himself to be willing to ruthlessly destroy their crops and livelihoods in order to prove that big business is the boss?
Snatching people’s land does not help smallholders out of poverty
The second news story concerning smallholders and the MPOC reports an equally familiar problem.
In this case a small oil palm farmer Cobbold anak Lusio has also been forced to go to court after a government subsidiary company took 30 hectares of his land, destroyed 3,000 of his fruit and rubber trees and threatening him with violence if he tries to enter his own legal territory.
“At the same time, Winsome Pelita lodged a false police report, resulting in him and his workers being arrested and locked up at a police station,” continues this news report, which is a scenario that is highly familiar to native landowners facing big company predators in Sarawak.
Thugs for this company have also threatened and intimidated Cobbold and his workers, which is another sadly familiar characteristic of big plantation land grabbers, whom the MPOC represents in Sarawak.
So, is all this Yusof Basiron’s idea of “helping smallholders”?
Is snatching small people’s land; beating them up and then punishing them for taking court action, by refusing to process the fruits of their hard labour, the way that the MPOC thinks they can ‘help smallholders out of poverty’?
Or should we conclude that in fact the MPOC is the cat’s paw of big businesses and corrupt politicians, and that all this talk about supporting smallholders is so much greenwash?
After all, actions speak louder than words.
Clare Rewcastle is editor of the Sarawak Report
How long will the Sarawak govt. treat the natives with contempt! Instead of helping these people they are robbing and cheating them, and allowing their cronies to do the same. Also these evil people in the MPOC are creating trouble for these poor natives.
Let God do to them all as their folly and evil deserves!