Indigenous communities lodge complaint against timber company’s flawed certification on logging operations

File photo for illustration purposes

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KUCHING, May 20: Some 36 Dayak communities in Ulu Baram and Ulu Limbang have filed official complaints against the certification of Gerenai and Ravenscourt forest management units with the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC), alleging a lack of consultation and free, prior and informed consent from the affected communities.

Raising this issue, The Borneo Project and Bruno Manser Fonds in a joint press release said that the affected indigenous communities have called for the full release of all relevant documents on timber operations in their forests, for proper consultation procedures, and for the recognition of the importance of forests for their livelihoods, health and wellbeing.

“The communities assert the certification (for the two logging concessions) was granted (to one of Sarawak’s biggest timber groups) without their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and without the communities having access to key documents about logging operations on their lands.

“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,” The Borneo Project director Jettie Word added.

Regarding the lack of transparency, the complaint mentioned 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.

“How can communities make informed decisions when they are not given the basic facts about planned logging operations on their lands?,” she pointed out.

The Borneo Project and Bruno Manser Fonds are part of a growing international coalition calling for an end to the greenwashing of tropical timber from Sarawak.

Alleging that official documents were being withheld, the coalition also criticised that the press statement provided by the timber company demonstrated a disrespect for the lifestyle of the communities affected by the timber giant’s upstream operations.

“While one document claimed that ‘fishing is not an important activity’ for the affected communities, another one stated that the forest ‘is not fundamental to meeting the basic needs of the local communities’.”

Penan leader Komeok Joe, who is also a Penan support group, Keruan, chief executive officer (CEO) hit back: “How can (the timber company involved) pretend that the forest is not important to us Penan?”

“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,” he added.

While the timber company involved and MTCC have published statements claiming that they closely follow guidelines to obtain free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of local communities, the coalition emphasised that the complaint suggested that there was a lack of understanding within those institutions about what FPIC actually meant. — DayakDaily