Penans present maps of ancestral lands to state government

Keruan Association coordinator Komeok Joe showing the maps.

KUCHING, Nov 20: A group of Penan leaders from Baram and Limbang have presented maps of their ancestral lands totaling some 10,000 sq km to the state government in their decades-long struggle to protect their ancestral lands from logging activities.

A total of 23 maps, covering land belonging to 63 communities, which include 7,000 rivers and 1,500 trees with details such the Penan’s medicinal trees and sago plants marked on the map, were presented to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Unggah Embas last Friday.

The group hoped that the state government under Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg will recognise their lands, which they refer to as ‘Baram Heritage Forest’ (to replace the previously proposed ‘Penan Peace Park’), outlined in the detailed maps which took a total of 15 years to complete.

“These are lands we Penan have been living on for thousands of years. We have include the land we live and cultivate, and the forest in which we hunt,” said Komeok Joe, the coordinator of the group and the Keruan Association, at a press conference at the state PKR office here today.

The other Penan leaders present include Penghulu Ajeng Kiew from Baram, former Ulu Baram penghulu James Lalo Keso, former councilor Garen Jengan, former headman Bilong Oyau, Ba Abang village head Panai Irang, Ulu Medi’it Magoh village head Peng Megut and Long Seliang representative Igu Agan.

The group was invited by the Chief Minister for a meeting on the last day of the State Legislative Assembly sitting on Friday. However, Abang Johari was unable to attend the meeting and Uggah had met the group instead.

Komeok said Unggah was very positive during the meeting, and hoped other communities would do the same and present all maps to their elected representative Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau.

“We had been urging the state government to protect our lands, forest and rivers. The most supportive was (the late Chief Minister Pehin Sri) Adenan Satem.

“Adenan supported us. If he was still around, we could have succeeded in protecting our lands,” said Komeok, pointing out that parts of their forest in Limbang and Baram had been encroached by timber companies.

A photo of the group’s letter to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Unggah Embas.

The group had met Adenan on May 4, 2015 to present their proposal on the self–administered Penan Peace Park in upper Baram.

The group had also written to previous chief Minister (now Head of State) Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud in 1995 urging the then chief minister to protect their land.

Penan Peace Park was proposed as a community managed protected area to maintain a unique and species-rich ecosystem in the upper Baram. — DayakDaily