Penan set up Long Ajeng blockade to stop alleged encroachment by timber company

A photo showing a group of Penans holding posters calling logging companies to stop cutting down trees in their land at the blockade.

KUCHING, Sept 14: A group of Penan from Sarawak’s Upper Baram region have erected a blockade on a logging road in the interior near Batu Siman on Sept 9 to stop the bulldozers of a logging company that was alleged to have rapidly encroached into the State’s last primeval forests.

Bruno Manser Fonds director Lukas Straumann said that photos showed around 40 Penans taking joint action to halt the logging company’s bulldozer from entering their land and decorated it with posters saying “Warning to logging companies — This Forest is a Penan traditional territory. Do not encroach on our land and our rights”.

The posters carried by Penan community representatives also urged logging companies to “Stop the Chop” and “Mai Teveng Kayeu Me” (Don’t cut our trees).

In a statement today, Straumann claimed that 12 community leaders had also issued a joint letter to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, urging for urgent government intervention to stop the logging company from destroying the last primeval forests in the Upper Baram region, an area that has been designated to be a protected area.

“We call on the Sarawak government to safeguard Sarawak’s last remaining primary forests and respect the communities’ clear wish to keep these forests intact.

“Last year, the International Tropical Timber Organisation approved a Malaysian government project, informally named the ‘Baram Peace Park’, which aims to protect and sustainably develop the region with enhanced community participation,” said Straumann.

He pointed out that the Long Ajeng blockade is the latest development in an ongoing stand-off between a number of indigenous communities and a Malaysian timber giant.

“Since the end of last year, communities in other concessions in the region had repeatedly complained about a lack of due consultation by the logging company over the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) of timber logged in their community forests.

“The timber companies are denying all allegations of wrongdoing. Instead of engaging in an open policy dialogue on their operations, they chose to sue Save Rivers, a Sarawak civil society organisation, for defamation,” he added. — DayakDaily