Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal
We are a body representing the rural natives of Sarawak, amongst whom many have suffered the adverse impact of development that have been going on in the interior of this our beloved State of Sarawak.
The whole speech of YAB Taib Bin Mahmud, unfortunately, did not touch on the impact of development on the rural native dwellers, let along its adverse impact. Our purpose this morning is to present a different picture, a true one, with regard to the adverse impact of development on the rural people.
Logging activities have been going on since the 1970s until the present time. And because it had been going on for so long time covering areas from Lundu, the western tip, to Limbang/Lawas, the eastern tip of the State, there is no single area of timber that remains unexploited. Therefore it is not correct for Chief Minister to claim that there are still 11 million hectares or 88% of our state's land mass are still either natural forest or planted cover. We do not have any statistic to show really, but we know for a fact that there is no more natural forest, in the true sense of the word, remains standing. Even those areas that are now made into wild life reserves areas have been previously exploited of their natural timbers, and what are there are those trees that have no commercial value that have been left to stand, and as well as secondary jungles of young trees growing up. We know these situations from our experiences. It is very simple to verify this really. Its need only one to drive along the main road starting from Lundu until Lawas and he can see for himself there is no more natural timber areas along the way. Before logging activities of the last 30 years or so virgin timber trees could be seen all along that route really.
To us the natives that most of us are living in areas that are already given out as timber concessionaires to be exploited and these areas have been exploited we know the extent of logging activities having been carried out from our experiencing its adverse impact, and really minimal benefits from them really.
Truly to the rural dwellers adverse impact of logging has been, and continue to be, felt: Rivers are polluted and shallower due to silting making fishes are getting scare, and frequent flooding taking place during raining seasons; farm lands for the natives to plant padi are getting less fertile with most wetland and low lying areas near the foot of mountains traditionally good for padi planting are polluted by soil flowing down on them from the nearby mountains. Activities of logging have also encroached upon native lands and upon those lands that had been used as sources for foods and materials for house making. There are cases where these encroachments have caused traditional longhouses to be abandoned and their dwellers moved to new areas only for them to face a same cycle all over again as logging activities reached up to their new settlement areas.
People in the rural areas that in the past had been given gravity-feed water pipes and had been dependent on these for their water, for many of these pipes, they have become clogged and block making water supply getting less reliable. These states of affairs are true because logging at mountain sides has caused severe soil erosion that get into the system and eventually blocked the flow of water by the soil clogging inside them.
Now that timber trees have all but gone a new wave of development is taking effect: It is a wave of development of plantation of oil-palm. Those lands that have been removed of timber by the loggers are reissued to companies for them to plant oil-palm. To us this is yet another scourge. The opening of land by big machineries opens up far and wide and because lands that the native are claiming as their own have not been alienated there is no clear demarcation on paper or on the ground, in the process many native lands have been over ran; and this has cause resentment and protest from the people concerned. But as the system of government being as it is, resentment and protest from the people affect have been condemned as anti-development by people in the Authority.
There are also areas that have been given out where they are recognized on the part of the government of the existence of native rights thereon, and that these lands been given to those companies with link to government. Any natives rights there are said to be held in trust for the natives by these government linked companies that have been given native status to enable them to so own native lands. The natives are not playing any role in these really, and let alone the long term benefit of these ventures in the future could be translated to benefit them. Nonetheless the natives in the process will loose their land because over a period of 60 years the duration of life of the plantation a new set of environment will take shape, new set of people will come to stay and work and settle. We are mindful in these ventures the power of capital will determine the outcome of things.
It is unfortunate that our Chief Minister has chosen to talk about the impact, if any, of logging on wildlife, and he has avoided talking about the, including adverse impact of development of logging and oil palm plantation on the native dwellers.
1989, the State
Government has done nothing much measure towards the protection and
preservation of environment and the conservation of forest and biodiversity in
Over the past decades, the government has indiscriminately issued timber licenses to politicians and their cronies; business associates and private companies over the customary land territories of indigenous communities. Seven million hectares hill forest is under logging concessions and had caused massive deforestation in the name of 'development'. Quick "profit7 is the main agenda. The rainforest and its rich natural biological diversity are indiscriminately destroyed.
The livelihood of the indigenous peoples is threatened. The logging activities are still continuing and moving deep into the interior region of the state and further terrorising the territories and natura1, resources of indigenous communities. There are really very little primary forests left. Yet the already logged areas are still being cut over and over again which unable the forest to regenerate back.
As logging is phasing out, the State Government of Sarawak is shifting its development policy to large-scale monoculture plantation. The State Government is targeting 3.9 million hectares of oil palm in the state. As up to date, a total of over 800,000 hectares of land were alienated for oil palm plantation. Over 1.5 million hectares of forest plantation established in the state, about half or perhaps more of the area would come under native customary land. Some of these forest plantation estates are established within the water catchment areas and native customary rights land of the native / indigenous communities.
this statement, we demand the State Government of
1. protect our native customary rights to land, forest and the environment;
2. declare to the public the actual size of logging concessions in the state and the names of persons who owned these logging concessions;
3. delineate and record officially our native customary rights land claims with the official documents submitted to the community, with this, conflict on overlapping claims between the longhouse/village residents, private corporations and the government can be resolve amicably;
4. urgently order the plantation and logging companies that are operating in our native customary land to stop their activities;
5. take action on logging companies which are extracting timbers illegally or conducting illegal logging activities on our native customary land;
6. halt the arbitrary issuance of Provisional Leases, Planted Forest Licenses and Logging Licenses to plantation companies and the government agencies which affect our native customary land;
7. adequate and just compensation for the damages and destruction done to our land and resources because of the so called “development projects” implemented by the private corporations or the government;
8. inform and meet transparently with all levels of our longhouse/village communities on native customary rights land development schemes that is going to be implemented in our territories, and subsequently respecting the communities’ decisions with regard to the development of their native customary land;
9. declare and distribute government gazettes about a project or the government's plan which involves our native customary rights land to every longhouse/village in areas which are affected by the gazette.
We also condemn the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) for not recognising and respecting our native customary rights.
with solidarity among all the indigenous peoples in
Press Statement issued by:
Augustine Bagat Ak Sikut
Chairman, TAHABAS Deputy Chairman, TAHABAS