The Borneo Post triumphantly declares:
Foreign hands in blockades
Foreigners caught on camera mingling with and instigating Penans at Long Nen and Long Bangan blockades
MIRI: It’s confirmed! Foreigners are behind many of the blockades set up by Penans in timber camps in the state.
It has long been suspected that many foreign environmentalists and socalled conservationists had been instigating and encouraging the natives to erect blockades and disrupt logging activities, though they had always denied their involvement.
But yesterday four foreigners, including two women, were seen among protesters manning blockades in Ulu Baram.
But wait, Mark Bujang, the executive director of a leading Sarawak NGO, Brimas, points out these were not instigators but AFP journalists carrying out interviews.
I suppose it’s a lot easier for the Borneo Post to point to foreign hands than to report on the root causes of Penan grievances – intrusion by a public-private joint venture timber company into their native customary land. Bujang says the private partner is KTS Holdings, which reportedly owns the Borneo Post. KTS is one of the biggest timber and oil palm plantation firms in Sarawak.
AFP reported that its news team at the blockades was photographed by angry timber company officials, and later intercepted at a roadblock by police armed with machineguns and taken away for questioning.
Foreign journalist labelled as instigators of Penan blockades
MIRI – Four foreign journalists were labelled as instigators by a local newspaper, the Borneo Post, for allegedly encouraging two Penan villages in Tutoh, Baram District, Sarawak for erecting blockades and disrupting the logging activities by logging companies in the area.
The Borneo Resources Institute, Malaysia (BRIMAS) learnt that the journalists were from the Agence France Presse (AFP) based in Kuala Lumpur and they were there doing interviews with the Penans in the Apoh-Tutoh areas of the Baram region.
At the time the two blockades were erected at Long Nen and Long Bangan, these journalists were coincidently there doing the said interviews.
However, the Borneo Post published a front page article headline ‘Foreign hands in blockades’ on 22 August edition and confirmed that foreigners were behind the many blockades set up by the Penans in timber camps throughout the state.
BRIMAS wishes to state the facts that the Penans from Long Nen and Long Bangan are not happy with Pusaka-KTS (PKTS) Forest Plantation Sdn. Bhd. for establishing an acacia and eucalyptus plantation within their native customary rights (NCR) land.
PKTS never obtained the villagers’ free, prior and informed consent when they wanted to establish the plantation and instead ignored the pleas and protests from the Penans which rejected the plantation.
It must be also pointed out that section 65B of the Sarawak Forest Ordinance Cap. 126 requires prior consent of NCR landowners before a Licence for Planted Forest (LPF) could be issued over the land.
As a result of PKTS non-compliance with the Forest Ordinance and disregarding the NCR of the Penans, these two villages decided to take direct action by erecting blockades to stop PKTS from further encroachment into their native customary land. It is through their own initiative that the Penans decided to erect the blockades and not orchestrated by foreigners as allege by the Borneo Post.
There are at least 20 other villages in and around Apoh-Tutoh, Baram region which are also affected by PKTS plantation. According to Friends of the Earth Report in 2008, the total area of PKTS plantation area in Apoh-Tutoh is approximately 90,427 hectares.
BRIMAS would like to urge PKTS and the Sarawak State Government recognise and respect the NCR of the Penans to their lands and forest resources. If PKTS’ LPF are overlapping over the NCR of the Penans and other native communities, then the state government should withdraw the LPF immediately.
BRIMAS also demands that PKTS stop all its clear-cutting activities on forested areas as this will further increase the rate of deforestation in Sarawak and undermining the biodiversity of the state.
The planting of exotic fast growing tree species like acacia and eucalyptus would only degrade the land further as these two species of trees are known to extract a lot of nutrients from the soil rapidly and render the soil infertile. Worst still, these trees are a fire hazard especially during the dry season as their leaves are quite flammable when dried due to the nature of the tree which needs heat to propagate it seeds.
PKTS is a joint venture company between the Sarawak Timber Industrial Development Corporation, also known as Pusaka, a state government agency and KTS Holdings Sdn. Bhd., a timber company based in Sibu, which also owns Borneo Post.
Executive Director, BRIMAS