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Basel, 17 February 2005
Penan protest against the certified logging of the last primeval forests of Sarawak (Malaysia)
19 Penan leaders and 582 sedentary and semi-nomadic Penan from the remote area of Ulu Baram on Borneo are protesting by letter against the certification granted to Samling, the Malaysian timber corporation, for the alleged sustainable logging of one of Sarawak's last contiguous areas of primeval forest. In the letter to the president of the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC), verified by thumb print, the Penan have demanded the immediate withdrawal of the certificate granted to Samling for forest management and called for the logging company to cease its destruction of their rain forest.
'We have been living here in peace until the timber companies came to disturb our life and encroach into our forest.' On behalf of the Penan signing the letter, headman Bilong Oyau wrote, 'Many of us have suffered due to the Samling logging operations: our rivers are polluted, our sacred sites damaged and our animals chased away by people who deprive us of our livelihood and culture. (...) We cannot accept that Samling is now awarded with a certificate to continue offending our native customary rights.'
MTTC did not consult with these Penan prior to the certification of their forest. Research by the Bruno Manser Fonds has revealed that about 80 percent of the certified concession area is traditional Penan territory. Information obtained in 2001 by the earth imaging satellite IKONOS indicates that the forestry practiced by Samling in this particular concession is anything but sustainable. The severe destruction of the forest is visible even in low resolution. The Penan in these communities are also complaining about the substantial damage to their drinking water supplies as a result of the logging.
For years, the Penan of the Ulu Baram area have been resorting to non-violent blockades of the logging roads to defend themselves against the destruction of their lebensraum. A lawsuit regarding land rights was submitted to a local court in 1988. It was filed against Samling and the government of Sarawak by four of the Penan villages concerned and is still pending. Since the onset of commercial logging with bulldozers, an estimated 90 percent of the original primary forest of Sarawak has been cut.
The timber certificate of MTCC is an attempt by the Malaysian lumber industry to improve its negative image and to increase the net product of its wood exports. It is especially intended for the lucrative European market. In the name of those Penan who are affected, the Bruno Manser Fonds urgently requests the international community to deny any recognition of the bogus MTCC certificate and to refuse to buy Malaysian tropical wood.
For further information:
Lukas Straumann, Director Bruno Manser Fonds
+41 61 261 94 74
Link to Penan protest letter in full extent:
- Report on the MTCC certification of the Sela'an-Linau Forest Management Unit
- Satellite image of logging in the certified concession
- Map of affected Penan territories 1:700'000
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