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Indigenous Communities Lodge Official Complaint Against Malaysian Timber Giant Samling

(MIRI / SARAWAK / MALAYSIA) Last week, 36 Dayak communities of the Ulu Baram and Ulu Limbang filed official complaints against the certification of two logging concessions with the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC). The communities assert the certification was granted without their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and without the communities having access to key documents about logging operations on their lands.

The two logging concessions implicated are the Gerenai and the Ravenscourt forest management units, both operated by subsidiaries of Samling — one of Sarawak’s biggest timber groups. In the complaint, the communities highlight many discrepancies between the certification scheme and its implementation. They also note a lack of transparency, failure to properly consult the communities, disregard of community dependence on forest resources, disregard of community initiatives for forest conservation, and flaws in MTTC’s complaint mechanism itself.

Regarding the lack of transparency, the complaint notes that key documents such as Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Social Impact Assessments (SIA) have not been made available to the public or local communities. “Certification without full access to information is simply unacceptable”, said Jettie Word, Director of The Borneo Project. “How can communities make informed decisions when they are not given the basic facts about planned logging operations on their lands?” The Borneo Project and Bruno Manser Fund are part of a growing international coalition calling for an end to the greenwashing of tropical timber from Sarawak.

While official documents are being withheld, summaries provided by Samling demonstrate a disrespect for the lifestyle of the communities affected by the timber giant’s upstream operations. While one document claims that “fishing is not an important activity” for the affected communities another one states that the forest “is not fundamental to meeting the basic need of the local communities”.

“How can Samling pretend that the forest is not important to us Penan?”, said Penan leader Komeok Joe, CEO of KERUAN, a Penan support group. “They know better and should be ashamed of such blatant distortions of the facts. Fishing and hunting are our main protein sources without which we cannot survive. The forest is not only key to our food supply but the main cultural and economic backbone to our livelihoods.”

While Samling and MTCC have published statements claiming that they closely follow guidelines to obtain free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of local communities, the complaint suggests that there is a lack of understanding within those institutions about what FPIC actually means.

The communities call for the full release of all relevant documents on Samling’s timber operations in their forests, for proper consultation procedures, and for the recognition of the importance of forests for their livelihoods, health and wellbeing.

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