Five new Penan blockades in Sarawak
While the logging road blockade near Long Benali (picture) was burnt down by the police on 4 April 2007, Penan communities in the Lower Baram region of Sarawak have set up five new blockades.
By Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
SAM would like to alert concerned parties on five Penan blockades which have been recently set up by four villages and one nomadic community in lower Baram river basin, Miri Division, Sarawak. The villages involved are Long Lutin (Sungai Patah), Long Sayan and Long Belok (Sungai Apoh) and Long Kevok (Sungai Layun, Tutoh) while the nomadic group, whose two representatives were in Marudi to report on the matter to SAM, is from Ba' Bevan, Sungai Si'ang, Tutoh.
The Ba' Bevan people are blockading against KTS Logging, while Long Sayan and Long Kevok are blockading against RIMBUNAN HIJAU and Long Lutin and Long Kevok villagers are blockading against SAMLING.
This alert would like to draw your attention that police personnel from Marudi have reportedly been fetched to Long Kevok as of today. We have reason to believe that the Long Kevok blockade, which began in the middle of this week, is being treated more urgently by the authorities since it is set up on a main logging route used by several companies.
We hope that this decision will not lead to any untoward incidents for the community members.
SAM is gravely concerned over the fast speed in which the authorities tend to react against peaceful protests by logging-affected communities and their lack of response to protect the peoples' rights prior to them resorting to protests. That new blockades are being set up barely one week after the long-standing Long Benalih blockade against a SAMLING road was dismantled by the authorities for the second time in the year, indicates that the governance and legal framework of the forestry sector in Sarawak is in serious need of reform.
We should also further note that the Apoh-Tutoh villagers are blockading not only to prevent further logging encroachments into their land but also to protect it from being accessed by new plantation schemes.
It is well-known that logging operations in most parts of Sarawak have reached their final stages with the issuance of numerous plantation licences from the Forests Department and the Department of Lands and Surveys since the late 1990s. If the people's protests are not heeded, then close to a fourth of Sarawak land area may be converted into oil palm and wood monoculture, which will strip off the people's land rights, resources and livelihood forever.
We ask for your solidarity for the people during the weeks to come. A statement on the matter will be issued by SAM next week.
(15 April 2007)