KUCHING, Sept 15: Save Rivers reminds the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) not to mistake the Baram community’s kindness and friendliness as consent to harvest trees.
In a press statement to rebut MTCC’s statement on its website dated on August 2020, non-governmental organisations (NGO) Save Rivers objected to MTCC’s definition of free, prior and informed consent as “A decision-making process that does not involve coercion/undue influence/manipulation (free), is made before activities are undertaken (prior), is founded upon a clear understanding (informed), and involves granting or withholding consent (saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’) to an activity, programme or policy (consent). In the FPIC process, consent is to be understood based on the definition of the term ‘consensus’.”
“Informing a community about a project is not the same thing as consent. Speaking with a handful of representatives from a village is not consensus.
“Folks in the Baram area are culturally hospitable and friendly but don’t misinterpret their kindness as consent,” Save Rivers asserted.
The NGO quoted villager Danny Lawai from Long Semiyang as saying: “We in Long Semiyang were not consulted. I’ve asked my fellow villagers, they said that they have not even heard about the proposal for the certification of the Gerenai FMU (forest management unit), let alone being consulted.”
A former headman from Tanjung Tepalit Lepo Gah, James Nyurang was quoted as saying: “Our headman was called for a briefing with the timber company at Kilo (KM) 10. They asked him for cooperation on the certification, but the community was never called or informed.
“A few representatives from the Gerenai management once came to our village. They wanted to meet our headman who was not around. I gathered a few people from the village to discuss with them. We were told that a survey was conducted.
“But we questioned the thoroughness of the survey, as they only identified one salt spring in the whole area. They avoided answering, but instead they told us that our question will be relayed to the higher authority.
“Unfortunately, that was the last time we saw them and till now we have yet to hear anything. We request from the people in charge to meet and consult the people properly and to do an accurate survey of the area.”
Save Rivers also quoted John Jau from Long Tungan.
“None of us in Long Tungan were ever visited by anyone from MTCC. We were never consulted from the start and were not aware of this certificate. We are against this but we have difficulty to voice it out. How can they say that we have given our free, prior and informed consent? Who had given them the permission?”
Save Rivers revealed that as the news has been getting a lot of attention, in both local and international news since it was first published, the NGO is now launching an online petition, called “Stop The Chop”, to garner support to stop logging in Gerenai. Signup can be done on the Save Rivers website saverivers.org/stopthechop
“As the one who operates this certification, MTCC should be aware that the community is unhappy with the forest management system.
“Even if they claimed that consultations have been conducted, these consultations have been received poorly by the community.
“It is best that the issue be discussed out in the open with all the relevant parties so all questions can be answered and made public,” asserted Save Rivers, adding that MTCC and the timber company operating in the area must respect and listen to the locals in the region.
In August 2020, MTCC posted a response on their website to Save Rivers’s press release titled “Certification Without Compliance” two months after it was published.
MTCC’s response claimed that the report by Save Rivers was false, stating that Save Rivers did not understand the process involved. — DayakDaily