What Rainforest?

‘What Rainforest?’ the film… Now online!
October 2, 2008, 1:07 am
Filed under: Campaign, Films, Logging, Oil Palm, Uncategorized

36 minutes
English/Malay/Iban with English Subtitles

When bulldozers mowed over the ancestral farmlands of Kampung Lebor, Segan Anak Degon stood his ground and defended his land. Now, he is the only person out of 101 families, whose land is left intact and unaffected by the oil palm plantation.

However, Segan is the rare few who managed to halt the feverish onslaught of oil palm advancement that threatens to devastate the embattled Sarawak forested landscape.

The accounts of an Independent reviewer:

It had all the necessary ingredients for a thrilling Hollywood blockbuster:
A stoic hero and his long-suffering wife.
Ruthless land-grabbing corporations.
A plot that wove a tale of David minus his slingshot versus Goliath.
Of conviction of strength in the face of greed, gangsters and cockamamie policies.
And also a credible supporting cast and beautiful long-range and wide angle shots of one of the world’s oldest rainforests.

But What Rainforest? neither thrilled nor entertained.

Of course, the co-producers of this 36-minute documentary – Hilary Chiew and chi too – never intended for it to. Instead, they succeeded all too well in making you burn as you watch the outright trampling of basic rights of the indigenous Iban folk and their ancestral lands.

When oil palm barons began encroaching onto their native customary rights (NCR) land with claims of buyovers sanctioned by the government, the families in Kampung Lebur, near Kuching in Sarawak, were devastated.

One man stood his ground. Segan anak Degon was the only one of 101 families who managed to hold off an oil palm plantation from replacing his ancestral patch of forest which included his paddy field and fruit trees planted by his forefathers.

Like his fellow villagers, the forest was the sole source of livelihood for Segan and his wife. But unlike his fellow villagers, Segan fought … and won. And this is his story.


16 Comments so far
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Wow cool you got the whole thing online!

Comment by Seelan Palay

Natives Custom and Tradition are ignored and not respected, in the name of development, which will make the rich shareholders richer and the poor natives poorer. The natives have depended on the lands for generations.Historically disputes with regard to territorial claims have lead to war, e.g. Head Hunting, with neighbors and whoever that have encroached.

The natives forefathers have sacrified (i.e. life, sweat, blood, “heads”, etc.) a lot for these lands.

Besides religion, most of the wars that happen in the past, or are on-going now, are because of territorial disputes and thirst for natural resources.

Do not let history (head hunting custom / tradition) repeat itself.

Agree that most of the natives do not have the means to carry out the mega developments themselves, however some of the natives are capable to develop it themselves, but on a smaller scale. In fact they are slowly developing the lands themselves, and this can help eradicate poverty among the natives.

The Mega Developments are owned by shareholders who are already rich, and the revenues / profits are shared among these few shareholders.

Unfortunately, majority of these shares are not owned by indigenous people. Some of the benefits or spin off from these mega developments that I can think of are;
(i) The few (mostly non-native or non-indigenous) rich and influential shareholders will have a very big piece of land for 60 years or more…which is not theirs in the first place.
(ii) The few rich shareholders will have millions of revenues / profits.
(iii) The natives and Indonesian/East Timor/Bangla etc laborers can earn RM15 per day or RM30/day if they are lucky.
(iv) The natives can sell cultivated products, from whatever land that are left (if any), to the workers in the plantation. (I thought of writing “jungle/forest products…but there are no forest left”)
(v) The natives (if any) “Mandor” or supervisors and support teams can earn RM2K – RM3K
(vi) The natives (if any or qualified) Plantation Manager will earn RM 5K – 10K per month plus benefits.
(vii) Revenues for natives (if any) supplier i.e.manpower or tools/consumables/fertilizer
(viii) Revenue for natives (if any) contractors i.e. transportation
(ix) Revenue for natives (if any) contractors i.e. maintenance
(xi) Revenue for the nations. The nations can gain some income from the taxes from the profits and earnings, and build more infrastructures in other locations instead of the native territories.
(xi) The developers can make millions by selling the land to another developer.
(xii) The developers can apply and extend the lease i.e. 60 yrs + 60 yrs + 60 … forever & continue to gain, thus continue to deprive the natives.
(xiii) Creation of a few high income groups and a lot of low or low mid income groups.
(xiv) Muddy roads that the indigenous people can trespass to go to their long houses or nearby towns.
(xv) “Kulat Sawit” for the indigenous people, who dare to trespass, to harvest.
(xvi) “Ular Repong” for the natives to hunt and eat
(xvii) Gain from increase in land value. The land can be converted from NCR/NCL to other categories i.e. Mixed zones etc…and the value will increase over the years. These few non-native and non-indigenous shareholders can gain because of the increase in land value.
(xviii) Gain for some of the indigenous people leaders or agents if they receive some sort of commissions or gifts for lobbying, supporting and being cooperative.
(xix) Gain by the long houses i.e. by receiving “sagu hati” or “gifts” for waiving their rights to their “pemakai menua” & “pulau” and being cooperative.
(xx) Gain for the lawyers i.e. from either side
(xxi) Hunt wild boars that eat the sawit in the plantations
(xxii) Native contractor can participate in vendor development programs (if any)

Unfortunately (also), majority of the natives or indigenous people do not have the means and knowledge and skill to grab the opportunities created by these mega developments.

Despite all the development and NEP programs, the minority natives and indigenous people are still the majority of poor citizen in Malaysia , after years of so called Merdeka.

And from my own experience, I personally don’t see any significant impact or spin off brought by these mega developments and all the logging companies. In the early 80’s the workers seem to gain a lot from the timber industries but now all the timbers and jobs are dwindling/gone.

The best option for the natives and indigenous people is to “nuan” (slash & burn and shifting cultivation) and develop the land themselves, “sedikit demi sedikit lama-lama jadi bukit” or “work like the ants”. Having developed and cultivated the lands themselves, they can claim that it’s their NCL. But unfortunate this NCL right may be extinguish in the name of development or developing the few that are already well off.

Some of the natives are developing the land themselves, but on a smaller scale. Examples of natives that have manage to do this are those in Long Laput, Beluru, Suai (i.e. penan & iban), Tatau, Lapok etc. , and I believe more will follow suit. Some of these guys have in fact gain from the fruit of their labour and investment already. The income can range from RM2K – 4K for small plantations and up to RM20K – 30K for the larger one.

By doing this I think there will be more middle class natives and indigenous people.

Besides the “jeko” or “temuda” I think the natives should reserve some land, Communal Forests at strategic locations, to fulfill the need i.e. hunting, fishing (“eloh or bawang”), forest product, water catchments, and timber, all for own use, & cultivation of other crops, for the native communities.

There should be some “tuan” or “pemakai menua” & “pulau” between the “jeko” or “temuda”, and the Communal Forests at the strategic locations must not be affected/polluted by the development.

The developers are trying to declare the “pemakai menua” & “pulau” as “stateland”, and they offer to give the native a “gift”, which is in fact our own “pemakai menua” & “pulau”.

In-line with the government aspiration to eliminate hardcore poverty, prevent pollution of the environment, develop modern agro business and be self sufficient etc., the government must allocate some land, for the indigenous people, especially in the interior, for them to develop or cultivate themselves, thus helping reduce poverty and contribute toward the economy of the nation.

Not all of the indigenous people can survive, thrive and compete in urban areas or cities, and some prefer /opt to go back and develop the land themselves. In the cities some of them are living from pay check to pay check or worst (i.e. having a lot of debt), living in squatters, and a desperate/lazy few may be involved in unwanted activities, thus they, the indigenous people, should be given the opportunity to go back to their interior land and develop the land themselves.

In fact some of the minister in Sarawak and the government have always propose and campaign/encourage that the indigenous youths should go back to the interior to tend and develop their idle lands. Some have answered the government call to go back and develop the land themselves, and these few entrepreneurs/small developers are quite successful in comparison to some of the urban/cities dwellers.

However, now, and during the past few years, the trend was to issue provisional lease to large organization, to develop the interior land, which unfortunately also includes part of the NCL inclusive of the land that have been developed or cleared by the entrepreneurs/small developers, and the generation before them, without the indigenous people knowledge or consent.

What land is there left to tend or cultivate, to continue our customs and tradition, if all the lands inclusive of NCL have been given to the large cooperation?

Comment by Tama Bulan

It’s always easy to look at a situation or an issue and judge – right or wrong. What comes after that?

We all know the destructive nature of human development; we either ignore/deny/avoid thinking about, or we identify with the emotion (arises from facing the issue) and do something about it.

What can I do? I have been contemplating a lot on how I live my life, and how I have contributed to the so called “human development”, which subsequently, created many of the major issues that we are facing today – climate change, spike in oil prices, recession and inflation… the list goes on and on.

Palm oil, how many people realize their dependency on this resource material? Palm oil is used in many products that we consume on a day to day basis, and would find it difficult to live without – cooking oil, margerine, toothpaste, chocolate, milo, detergent, shampoo, soaps, bread, cookies/biscuit, ice cream etc etc. But is it replaceable? yes! It is a good resource and most of the time, the cheapest available – if you ignore the “intangible” price that one has to pay, directly or indirectly – the diminishing of our rainforest, the global warming effect caused by deforestation and the loss of flora and fauna without which, nature’s living cycle is disrupted… So, is the world willing (and can I afford) to NOT consume palm oil?

I don’t know who is (or isn’t) at fault in a case (highlighted here) such as this, and I cannot disassociate myself from the cause. I am a consumer, and my demand keeps increasing, as long as I continue to live my life the way it is – buying, buying, buying, waste waste waste.

A change is much in need here, and this change has to start from me, today.

Comment by Ling

Congratulations for getting this important document online at this crucial juncture. I’ve taken the liberty to feature “What Rainforest?” on my blog, hope you guys don’t mind!

Comment by Antares

hello! im keidy of asia pacific indigenous youth network (apiyn). we also have an environmental initiative now. the save our mother earth now. in line with, we would like to ask your permission if we could use some of your film’s clips in our music video album. you will be properly acknowledge.
by the way, adrian pereira send me a mail and he is the one who introduced me to your film. he said you were both volunteers of Komas where you met.
for the earth,
keidy (apiyn)

Comment by keidy transfiguracion

Wonderful film!!!!!

This summer I visited South America and witnessed enormous deforestation of tropical forests for cornfields. This is a direct result of US ethanol policy. See video on youtube: “The Ethanol lie” or go to http://www.ethanol-lie.com

Comment by Allen

thank you Chi Chi Chi…you are a wonderful film maker…

Peace love and Indigenous Solidarity

Comment by Tia

Great, thank you 🙂

Comment by Bogdan Radu

Wonderful film! We’ve added a link to the Borneo Project website. Please consider adding the Borneo Project to your Links. The Borneo Project supports indigenous community efforts to protect their rainforests in Sarawak and Sabah. On http://www.borneoproject.org you can watch a documentary produced with the Iban community of Rumah Nor about their important Native Customary Rights court case. It is viewable online with both Malay and English subtitles. Look forward to more films from What Rainforest.

Comment by Jessica Lawrence

Would we (city dwellers) want to be dragged to self-sustain ourselves in the jungle? Likewise and vice-versa- why should they (orang asli)?

Comment by janis rozario

How can I get a copy!?! Great movie that I’d like to use for teaching.


Comment by Wolfram

How to download a copy od video? For sharing purposes…


Comment by Tubairabut

Posts like this brhgietn up my day. Thanks for taking the time.

Comment by Keylon

Hi Tubairabut,
The DVD is available for sale in both KL and Kuching…
if you are in KL, it is available at Silverfish books (bangsar), The Ricecooker (central market), Gerak Budaya (Petaling Jaya), Gerai OA (wherever they are).
In Kuching, it is available at Ruai Kitai, and Borneo Headhunters.
If you need more info, contact us at whatrainforest@gmail.com

Comment by What Rainforest?

This really makes my blood boils! Too bad “ngayau” has been outlawed.
Why can’t the fucking Dayak ministers open their eyes to this?!

Comment by =87

hi, if we are to cut down our palm oil product consumption, we should definitely consider these nasty palm oil greasy items…
1. malaysian/indonesian manufactured chocolate -I don’t know why Cadbury’s allow it to be made here with palm oil content, it tastes terrible and its a disgrace to the name. All the others are bad in malaysia except for imported makes.

2. canned condensed/evap milk. that includes your teh/teh tarik/kopi dosages. all evily loaded with sawit oil and sugar. So bad for your health. Watch out because half of the milk powders in malaysia have palm oil constituents (often the cheaper-looking packets) as does that conning Magnolia bottles ‘fresh’ (not so fresh) milk. Its hard to find any good milk in malaysia actually, even goodday tastes bad.

3. malaysian biscuits – also bread but that’s hard to substitute.

4. roti chanai – absolutely loaded with (1st) margarine to make it so stretchy, and then dollops of oil on the frier. Try and get chapati or ikli from an indian shop.

5. soap – this is one hard item to substitute in malaysia.

6. obviously, cooking oil – look for flower oils, or corn.

7. candies.

Comment by no teh tarik thanks

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