Malaysian police threaten to arrest indigenous leader over Mulu oil palm protest

Malaysia’s political police, the Special Branch, threaten Penan headman Ukau Lupong with arrest – Bruno Manser Fund calls on Malaysian authorities to stop all intimidations against indigenous leaders and to respect the community rights

(Bateu Bungan, Sarawak/Malaysia) Malaysian authorities are trying to stifle a growing conflict with indigenous communities over a massive oil palm plantation with arrest threats. Indigenous communities are at loggerheads with the government over an oil palm development near the Mulu National Park in the rainforests of Sarawak, a state in Malaysian Borneo.

According to community reports, officers of the Special Branch, Malaysia’s political police, threatened last week to arrest Ukau Lupong, an indigenous Penan leader over protests against a 4400 hectare oil palm plantation on native forest lands in the Mulu region. The threat was issued on the occasion of a meeting between community leaders and local government officials on 14th February 2019.

Ukau Lupong is one of the organizers of a protest letter by 268 indigenous Penan and Berawan villagers to Malaysian authorities. The communities are calling on the Sarawak Chief Minister to immediately end the destruction of their forest lands by Radiant Lagoon, a Malaysian oil palm company.

 Last month, the communities also started to stage blockades to physically prevent the oil palm company from entering their territory. Bateu Bungan is a Penan village located on the edge of the UNESCO-protected Mulu National Park. The planned oil palm plantation threatens the villagers’ livelihoods and is feared to cut off an important wildlife corridor near the Mulu National Park.

The Bruno Manser Fund urges the Malaysian police to stop all intimidations and calls on the Sarawak and federal Malaysian authorities to start a meaningful dialogue with the communities affected by the Mulu oil palm encroachments.