International NGOs concerned over legal threats against Sarawak villagers

Image from NST – illustration only

By John Isaac

INTERNATIONAL NGOs have expressed concern over how rural communities in Sarawak are facing possible legal action after they resisted a local logging conglomerate.

In a statement, Bruno Manser Fund and The Borneo Project condemned these “legal threats” against the Kenyah and Penan people in Baram and Limbang.

“Logging should only take place with the free, prior and informed consent of local people.

“Communities must be able to voice their concerns without fearing legal consequences.

“As long as the freedom of expression is not guaranteed, there can be no talk of sustainable logging and certificates must be withdrawn,” said Bruno Manser Fund executive director Lukas Straumann as reported by Malaysiakini.

Based in Basel, Switzerland, Bruno Manser Fund campaigns to protect tropical rainforests and indigenous people.

The Borneo Project raises awareness about human rights and environmental issues in Borneo. It is based in California.

In April, a subsidiary of the logging giant in question issued a letter in response to objections raised by three villages – Long Ajeng, Long Lamam and Long Murung.

The villages alleged that the firm was logging at the boundary of their communal land.

In the letter sighted by Malaysiakini, the firm denied their “false, untrue and unfounded” claims and reserved rights “to take legal action” against the complainants.

In March, another subsidiary of the same logging firm issued a similar letter to the Long Moh Community denying that it had encroached and destroyed their land.

The subsidiary clarified that it had a permit to log in the area, adding that the local community had already received a “logging commission” for such activities. It thus refused to pay compensation and “reserved its right to take legal action”.