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 Gamok indigenous communities from the Upper Limbang and Banan areas of Sarawak complained of 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 came 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), a leading international forest certification body, which also received a copy of the complaint, as did the Ministry of Forests of Sarawak and the National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM).
“In my opinion, this is the correct approach taken by the MTCC,” the Bennan leader Komeok Joe, who led the Bennan advocacy organization Keruan and helped the Bennan community in Shanglin Meng lodge 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 concerning Sanlin’s timber business in order to establish proper consultation procedures and recognize that the forest’s The importance of livelihood, health and well-being.”
Thousands of aboriginal people living in northern Limbang and Baram area rely 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.
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 the complaint filed in May, the community emphasized the difference between the Timber Commission’s certification and its 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 replying to Al Jazeera’s questions via email, Samling stated that he had “repeatedly resolved these baseless allegations”, saying that these allegations “affected and tarnished” the company’s reputation.
It added that it has filed legal proceedings against Save Rivers, a non-profit organization working in the area.
“In this case, we trust 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 plan.”
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.”
For example, in Upper Banan, the Kenyan Kamu and Penan communities have been working hard to establish Banan Peace Park (also known as Upper Banan Forest)-a community-led initiative to protect Sarawak’s last pristine area Forest, 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 originally 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.
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.
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 Ravenscourt FMU and its vicinity, there are some Penan ethnic groups. They have been nomadic for their livelihoods. Until recently, today they are semi-settled 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 working 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 key social and environmental impact assessment reports.
Jettie Word, executive director of the California-based Borneo Project, stated that her organization has been supporting communities affected by Gerenai and Ravenscourt FMU and helping community-led leaders in protecting forests, sustainable livelihoods, and human rights. Strive to gain international attention and support. 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 checking the box-not appropriate Free, prior and informed consent in place — it’s sufficient 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.