Extracted from Malaysiakini
'Orang utans’ with
placards rock summit
Disgruntled native customary rights (NCR) landowners in
More than100 of them staged a protest outside a hotel in Kuching where foreign delegates and journalists from around the world have gathered for the International Media and Environment Summit (IMES).
The presence of the protestors donning orang utan masks and carrying placards denouncing logging and palm oil plantation activities on their NCR land took everyone, including the police, by surprise.
protestors comprised mainly elderly Dayaks from longhouses and villages from
Lundu to Lawas.
They had arrived in small groups before the lunch break. Their spokesperson, Sarawak Native Customary Rights Lands Network (Tahabas) President Augustine Bagok held a press conference on the hotel’s first floor.
As the IMES session was in progress, Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) Secretary-General Nicholas Munjah distributed notes on the scheduled press conference.
‘Malaysian timber certification council not transparent’, ‘Our water resources are polluted by logging and oil palm plantations’, ‘IMES ignores indigenous people’, ‘We want you to visit our village it is not what you will see at the Sarawak cultural village’, ‘Our livelihood has been deprived’.
The above were some of the placards brandished by the protestors.
The real picture
Bagok told reporters that the protest was held “to present a different picture, a true one, with regards to the adverse impact of development on the rural people.”
He said his organisation represented the rural native people in
He said Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, when addressing delegates and journalists at the opening of IMES on Wednesday, failed to touch on the impact of development on these people.
According to Bagat,
In view of this, he said it was not right for the chief minister to claim that there were still 11 million hectares or 88 percent of the state's land mass which were either natural forests or planted covers.
On the adverse impact of logging, Bagat said rivers had become polluted and shallower due to silting which in turn resulted in depleting numbers of fish besides flash floods.
It also reduces the fertility of farming land as most wetlands and low-lying areas are polluted by soil washed down from the nearby mountains.
Bagat said the massive deforestation activities in
“The unsustainable development policies advocated by the state government have brought about environmental degradation and misery to the indigenous community,” he added.
According to him, the state government has not done much in protecting and preserving the environment and the conservation of forests and biodiversity in
“Although the state has gazetted a total of 463,032.48 hectares of
forests for national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves, this
nothing compared to the size of deforestation caused by logging and plantations
as well as other mega development projects,” he said.
With ‘quick profit’ as the main agenda, he claimed that the government had indiscriminately issued timber licences to politicians and their cronies.
Bagat demanded that the state government take several urgent steps to address the issue, including protecting native rights to the land, forest and environment.
He called for the actual size of logging concessions and the names of the beneficiaries to be made public.
Bagat also wants the arbitrary issuance of provisional leases, planted forest licences and logging licences to plantation companies and government agencies which affect NCR to be halted.
He said the government should pay adequate and just compensation
for damages and destruction to NCR land and the native people’s resources due
to this 'development projects'.
The authorities should inform and meet in a transparent manner with longhouse /village communities and respect the communities' decision with regard to the development of NCR land.
Also present at the press conference were Miri-based non-governmental organisation BRIMAS co-ordinator and Tahabas advisor Raymond Abin, lawyers Patrick Anek and Dominique Ng as well as leaders from other non-governmental organisations.