Filed under: Campaign
What Rainforest? is a non-profit collective of individuals and NGOs concerned about the state of the Malaysian rainforests and its inhabitants.
What Rainforest was launched to counter the myth perpetuated by the government and pro-logging, pro-plantation corporate interests that everything is fine with the Malaysian rainforest.
The common rhetoric is Malaysia is under 65% forest cover AND amazingly that figure has not reduced since Rio Summit 1992 even though thousands and thousands of hectares including production forests in so-called Forest Reserves were cleared for development. Promoter of oil palm, possibly the biggest deforestation driver will have you believe that this monoculture plantation is as good as forest and that will push up Malaysia forest cover to 80%.
We also aim to highlight the human rights violations, loss of native customary rights (NCR) land and the poverty entrenchment of the indigenous people of Malaysia that is at the heart of deforestation since 1970s.
Currently, we aim to highlight these plights through posting related media reports on this website and by organizing public awareness campaigns.
Through this, we hope to achieve the following by working with (or pressuring, when necessary) the governments, industry, NGOs, and all relevant stakeholders:
- Restore the rights of the indigenous people of Malaysia
- Stop deforestation
- Reverse deforestation
What Rainforest? is also the title of a film that inspired its filmmakers to start this campaign and website. We constantly seek venues where we can organize screenings to create more awareness on the issue. If you are interested to screen the film at your school, college, university, church, temple, synagogue, clubhouse, office, home, or backyard or your friends and communities; do drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed under: Campaign, Films, Indigenous People, Land, Logging, Media Reports, Oil Palm
Much apologies for the hiatus of this blog. We’ve been extremely busy and to be absolutely honest, in a way, ignored the existence of this page. But hey… we’re back.
Today I present to you the saga between Hilary Chiew and The Eastern Times as a result of the former presenting Penusah Tana to an audience in London. Here goes…
April 14, frontpage on the Eastern Times
April 15, frontpage on the Eastern Times… again (thanks for the publicity)
The Eastern Times, having realized the error of their ways, but not really
Hilary Chiew’s rebuttal to the Eastern Times, 29 April 2010
On April 14, three days before a film-screening intended for a Malaysian crowd was scheduled in London, the Sarawak-based newspaper, Eastern Time, front-paged a story drawing attention to the event.
It was to be the screening of my documentary film – Penusah Tana (The Forgotten Struggle).
In a highly unusual publicity of the event, veteran journalist James Ritchie implied that the film presented a false picture of the Penan’s long-standing resistance against logging.
Interestingly, he included his interview with Ajang Kiew, the protagonist of the film, of which the senior Penan admitted to his involvement in past blockades – the peaceful protest method employed by the Penan that has come to symbolise their defence of their forest home in the high-profile international campaign to save Sarawak rainforest.
Notwithstanding the fact that Ajang Kiew has decided that he has enough of the confrontational ways and now preferred to engage in ‘give and take’ discussions, the historical facts remain that he was a veteran blockader as depicted in the film.
As I won’t pretend to be able to comprehend the hardship that Ajang has suffered all those years, so I would not judge him for his decision in his old age.
However, I did make it a point at the screening in London to mention that Ajang has abandoned the struggle and no longer heads the Sarawak Penan Association.
Never did Mr Ritchie contact me to verify if indeed his interpretation of the event was correct. Neither did he check with the host of the event that the screening was a campaign against Malaysian timber and oil palm plantation industries as he virtuously proclaimed.
I have never met Mr Ritchie and couldn’t have possibly offended him to warrant such a personal attack that was so apparent in the following article next day in the same newspaper, again on the front-page.
In the second article, he wrote: Failing in her attempts to sway local public opinion by raising emotional issues such as the alleged rape of Penan schoolgirls, Chiew is now treading on the trodden path of foreign NGOs bent on attacking Malaysian primary industries.
As was typical of mainstream media reporting, particularly timber company-owned Sarawak newspapers, on conflicts arising from commercial logging in the state for the last quarter century, Mr Ritchie pointed his finger to western media/NGOs evil interference.
Alas, he would be disappointed. Neither was western media invited to the screening nor was there presence of western environmental NGOs.
As for the Penan rape case – public outrage was evident from the number of letters, sms-es, local NGOs and official responses carried in major newspaper and online publications. The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development promptly set up a task force and the police launched an investigation. The taskforce’s report acknowledged that sexual violation of Penan women and young girls was indeed a problem afflicting the marginalised Penan community. Until today, the police has neither officially announced its investigation results nor decisions on the matter.
Mr Ritchie surely is aware of the Ministerial Penan Task Force Report which incidentally included the testimonies of the two young victims highlighted in my articles.
In the last few years, the plight of the Penan is also documented by the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) in the agency’s own independent investigations which showed that the Penan are worst off today than they were 20 years ago and the underlying cause being the unsustainable logging practices sanctioned by the state.
Note to Editor:
The said documentary was premiered in Malaysia in 2007 and screened at numerous venues and is viewable on the website http://www.whatrainforest.com
Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia
Another 15 Indigenous Peoples Detained in Sarawak
18 September 2009
Sri Aman, Sarawak – After the arrest and release of 15 indigenous people in Sarawak on Malaysia Day, another 15 indigenous Iban have been reported arrested in the Pantu District in Sarawak, for the alleged crime of harvesting oil palm fruits that have been grown on their native land. This was done in response to a police complaint filed by trespassing company Pelita-Tetangga Akrab.
From reports on the ground, the group consisted of 20 Iban but the 5 women in the group were allowed to go free. Though there are no plans to charge the group, the police claim to be unable to release the 15 men until their statements are taken. To add insult to injury, they will have to spend a night in custody due to a lack of a photocopy machine with which to make copies of their identification documents.
“This is a clear case of harassment,” said Nicholas Mujah, Secretary General of the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association. “They are not going to be charged and yet they will have to spend one night in the custody of the police. It shows that the companies are able to exert influence over the police and government.”
The communities’ farm land was taken by Pelita-Tetangga Akrab in 2003 in a joint venture to plant oil palm, despite immediate protest and the filing of a court case by the communities affected. Though they have claimed to do this JV with the community, the vast majority of the communities rejected the project and their right to free, prior and informed consent ignored.
As a desperate measure, the villagers have taken to harvesting the oil palm fruit that was grown on their land. Though numerous reports and complaints to the police have been made by the villagers, these have fallen on deaf ears.
“The government wants the natives to not leave their NCR lands idle. But when the native communities want to develop their own land by planting cash crops such as oil palm, they are being penalised”, said Mark Bujang, Executive Director of Borneo Resources Institute, Malaysia (BRIMAS).
In Sarawak, native land rights are recognized by the Sarawak State Constitution and their rights to these lands have been reaffirmed through several key judgments in the Malaysian Courts.
For more information please contact:
Nicholas Mujah (+6-016-876)
Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia/ Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia
The 12 dams poised to dot Sarawak (from hereon will be referred to as ‘My Dirty Dozen’ in this post and all post in What Rainforest?) has reared its damned ugly head. We received an email from Jaringan Orang Asal Semalaysia (JOAS) informing us of the arrest of 15 of its members as they attempt to hand over a memorandum to the CM of Sarawak in protest of My Dirty Dozen… Here is what JOAS sent us…
URGENT ALERT – ARREST OF JOAS LEADERS
16 September 2009
As Malaysia commemorates its 46th anniversary, 15 indigenous Sarawakians have been detained by Kuching police at 2:45pm today for trying to send a memorandum of protest to the Sarawak Chief Minister. Among those arrested are Mark Bujang (BRIMAS), Raymond Abin (BRIMAS) and Hellan Empaing (WADESA), all leaders of the Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia) as well as representatives from the Kayan, Kenyah and Penan communities of Sarawak.
The contingent, consisting of 6 Penan, 4 Iban, 2 Kayan and 3 Kenyah are all representatives of communities who will be affected by two major dams which are being built in their areas. They had prepared a memorandum on the issue and were delivering it to Wisma Bapa Malaysia, the office of the Chief Minister. While waiting for endorsement of the document, they were arrested by local police. They are currently being held in the Kampung Gita Police Station in Petra Jaya, Kuching, Sarawak. It is uncertain whether they are being charged, or what reasons are being given for their detention.
Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia strongly condemns the detention of its members who were attempting to deliver a memorandum on behalf of the indigenous peoples of the Baram and Murum areas of Sarawak. The memorandum protested the State Government’s actions to build hydro electric dams in these areas without the free, prior and informed consent of the communities affected and without due regards to the status of the native lands involved. The actions of the State Government are in clear contradiction to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Malaysia strongly supports.
We also condemn the use of arrest to intimidate and silence the voices of the communities who are questioning the construction of large dams on the area. This demonstrates the unwillingness of the State Government to ensure the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in projects that affect them.
We call upon the Sarawak State Government to immediately release all fifteen Sarawakians and engage in a proper consultative process with the affected communities. We also call for the respect of the constitutional native land rights of these communities. It is also in violation of the right to peaceful assembly, guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
1. URGENT: Please phone the Gita police station and ask after the well-being of the activists, ask what they are being charged with and demand their unconditional release in line with Constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly (Article 10). Tel: ++6 082-254417
2. Write to the following:
Chief Minister of Sarawak
YAB Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud
Chief Minister of Sarawak
22nd Floor, Wisma Bapa Malaysia,
Petra Jaya, 93502 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
2. YB Datuk Amar Wilson Baya Dandot
State Secretary of Sarawak
20th Floor, Wisma Bapa Malaysia
Petra Jaya, 93502 Kuching,
3. Datu Haji Abdul Razak Tready
State AG’s Chambers
Level 16, Wisma Bapa Malaysia,
4. Tan Sri Musa bin Dato’ Hj Hassan
Ketua Polis Negara
Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia
Bukit Aman,50560 Kuala Lumpur
5. Datuk Mohmed Salleh
Ketua Polis Negeri
Ibupejabat Polis Kontinjen Sarawak
Polis Diraja Malaysia
Jalan Badruddin,93560 Kuching,
Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)
For more information, please also contact:
from Bruno Manser Fonds
27 August 2009
High-ranking Sarawak government delegation on the way to Penan villages – Meeting over blockades to take place tomorrow
Native Penan leaders from the East Malaysian state of Sarawak are refusing to meet a high-ranking Sarawak government delegation at the proposed meeting point in Long Bedian, a Kayan long-house in the Tutoh river region. According to Penan sources, the meeting is to take place tomorrow, 28 August 2009.
“We are open for talks with the government, but we refuse the proposed meeting point at Long Bedian”, a Penan spokesperson commented to BMF. The Penan feel humiliated by a statement of Abang Johari, the former Sarawak Minister of Penan affairs and current Minister of Housing, who alleged in The Borneo Post that foreigners were behind the logging road blockades.
“We expect the official delegation to meet us at the blockade sites or at a Penan village. It is essential for the officials to see the dire situation of our villages with their own eyes and to hear the voices of our people.”
Long Bedian, a Kayan long-house, is a regional centre for the Apoh-Tutoh region, which is strongly influenced by the presence of several logging companies.
A week ago, the Penan set up three blockades at strategic logging road locations to prevent vehicles of four logging companies – Samling, Shin Yang, KTS and Interhill – from removing timber from their native lands. In particular, the Penan aim at stopping plantation projects that would involve the conversion of large tracts of secondary forests into oil palm, acacia and eucalyptus plantations.