Friday, December 24

Penans sue Samling, state government

The Penan community of Ba Jawi in Sarawak's Upper Baram region is suing a giant timber company, Samling and the state government over 15,000 hectares of primary rainforest in order to protect their livelihood from being destroyed by logging.

The case was filed on Tuesday morning (21 Dec 2010) by lead plaintiff Lija Agan, headman of the tiny village of Ba Jawi, and three others who are claiming that the Ba Jawi forests have been used since time immemorial by their ancestors and urgently need to be protected against logging.

The case was filed in Miri High Court by Messrs Baru Bian Advocates and Solicitors.

In their statement of claim, they say that about 200 years ago, their ancestors were living in and around Ba Jawi, exercising native customary rights over the land in Ba Jawi and its vicinity.

"They hunted and gathered food from the forests and lived on sago (uvut) as their staple food. The plaintiffs are presently exercising these rights over that same land," the statement says.

The Penans are claiming that a logging licence held by Samling Plywood, a subsidiary of the Malaysian Samling group of companies, should be rescinded, since it was issued by the Sarawak government in an "unlawful, improper, unconstitutional and therefore null and void" manner.

The new case is the fifth native customary rights case lodged by Eastern Penan communities from Upper Baram since 1998. It has been prepared with assistance from the Bruno Manser Fund.

The area covered by the Ba Jawi claim is a key region of the Penan Peace Park, a self-administered conservation region in the Heart of Borneo, which was proclaimed a nature reserve by 17 Penan communities in November 2009 and covers twice the size of Singapore.

In February 2007, the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei signed the tripartite "Heart of Borneo Declaration" in which they committed themselves to protecting the rainforests of central Borneo.

However, the declaration has not been followed by much action on the ground. In December 2009, Sarawak's director of forests, Len Talif Salleh, even condemned the Penan Peace Park as an "illegal" project that "tainted Sarawak's image".


Anonymous said...

Commendable. Time these cronies face the crunch and might of the laws. The State Government had abused their mandate given by the voters to act and do whatever they like without regards to the livelihoods of the natives. They all talk and champion Article 153 to protect the special rights and privileges of the Malays only. And they forget and disregard everyone else as if Malaysia belongs to them exclusively. Sue them. They all deserve to be sued.

Anonymous said...

good move to sued the culprit...but there's not many to have that ability..still low if u can long as power & authority belong to them...will no go further. THE MOST powerful action is to vote it out during election...right.