Hornbill Unleashed

October 18, 2011

Baram Penan set up blockade against loggers

Malaysiakini

The Penan communities have mounted a blockade in an attempt to stop further logging of rainforests in the middle Baram region.

According to the NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), about 70 people from the communities of Ba Abang and Long Kawi set up the blockade on the logging road near Ba Bunau river to stop Miri-based company Interhill.

“According to community information, the blockade was erected last Thursday, Oct 12, and was attended by more than 70 Penan tribespeople,” it said.

BMF, in a press statement yesterday, said that the blockade is located within the land claimed as native customary land of the Ba Abang community.

NONEThe Swiss-based NGO, founded in the memory of environmental activist Bruno Manser who disappeared in Sarawak in 2000, added that the Penans accuse Interhill of “aggressive and environmentally destructive logging over the past months”.

“Several attempts by the communities to negotiate with Interhill responsible have failed. Interhill had already been accused of similar conduct in 2009.

“BMF has learnt that Interhill called the police and Forestry Department officials to dissolve the blockade but the Penan are currently upholding their protest,” the NGO said.

Several blockadesset up by the Penan against loggers previously have been met with threats by the authorities.

In 2009, six Penan communities from the Middle Baram had jointly filed cases to claim NCR land and ask logging licences to be declared null and void.

The cases are still pending at the Miri High Court.

Chequered track record

NONEEarlier that year, a group of Penan leaders sent a letter to French Accor group CEO Gilles Pelisson protesting the group’s ties with Interhill.

Accor operates the five-star Pullman Hotel in Kuching, which is owned by Interhill.

In 2009 Accor group commissioned an independent study on complaints regarding Interhill’s logging activities.

The mission found that the Penans felt encroached by the logging operations, and that compensation did not comply with agreements understood by the Penan.

Interhill, however, told the mission that the community is generally compensated for any encroached land to an extent that even goes beyond the Sarawak government’s interpretation of NCR land.

The study by consultant Hugh Blackett also found that Interhill was not in full compliance of international environmental standards for logging.

“Field observation indicated that full compliance was not being achieved and in some cases compliance was minimal or absent,” Blackett reported.

azlan

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