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August 26, 2011

Insidious Plantation Activities in Tanjung Upar Destroy Iban Communities’ Livelihood and Sustenance

SAHABAT ALAM MALAYSIA PRESS STATEMENT

26 August 2011

SAM would like to express our shock over the progress of plantation activities that are being carried out at a fast pace in Tanjung Upar, Baram Sarawak, which are affecting a group of landowners without their consent. The company involved obtained a Provisional Lease (PL) over Lot No. 1210 of the Puyut Land District several years ago but it has yet to issue official notice to the community regarding their intention to plant oil palm.

This PL was issued by the Sarawak State Government along with those on Lot 197, Lot 1207 and Lot 1200 within the Puyut Land District, measuring about 21,913 ha and affecting three communities including Rumah Chabop and Melayu Narum. These PLs will soon consume the native land that has been timelessly worked by the people to sustain their livelihood and to ensure their daily sustenance – a way of living that has been in existence since Rajah Brooke days and beyond.

Despite having substantial proof of native customary rights on the land, development companies have already taken over the communities’ communal forests and farmlands. The Iban community of Rumah Vincent in Tanjung Upar is reportedly being pressured to stay away from their own farmlands that have been insidiously encroached into by an oil palm company beginning July.

The community, made up of 292 persons, has lost most of their fruit trees and cash crops on their farmland despite pleading the company to stay away from them. They fear that the perpetuity of this project will eventually wipe out their last remaining farmlands and their ancestral graves that are situated near Loagan Tujuh. Already another company has destroyed their communal forest and covered the land with straight rows of oil palm with no compensation being paid to them.

Due to the merciless intensity of the oil palm development in Tanjung Upar, the community staged a protest across the plantation road on Aug 7, 2011. They held up banners that read `Tanah adalah jiwa dan sumber kepenghidupan kami. Harta musnah, pampasan tiada’ (Land is our life and source of livelihood. Our property’s destroyed without compensation). SAM is alarmed that the company’s unfettered actions have resulted in the community being cut-off from food resources and in the loss of their livelihood obtained from lakes that are now heavily silted and contaminated with chemical spray run-off from the plantations.

Time and again, calls have been made to respect the rights of the natives and for the State Government to improve the transparency in land and forestry governance. Therefore, we urge the Sarawak state government to investigate the complaints that have been lodged by the community and to respect the rights of its indigenous communities. We also call upon the Sarawak Land and Survey Department to implement the free, prior and informed consent process in all their decision-making.

Taking all the complaints and hardship suffered by affected communities into consideration, as well as their legal rights to their land, we urge the Sarawak State Government to ensure that all indigenous community village territories are excluded from all plantation licences and any development on such land should only proceed with their free, prior and informed consent.

S.M.Mohamed Idris President of SAM

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