Sarawak Government is deceiving the Mulu communities

Press statement by Mulu United Land Action, 16 March 2019

On the ground surveys by the Mulu Berawan/Tering and Penan communities are showing that the Sarawak Government and YB Datuk Gerawat Gala are not telling the truth about the logging operations by Radiant Lagoon Sdn Bhd for a new oil palm plantation near the Gunung Mulu UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Logging operations are still in full swing contrary to promises that logging would be immediately halted, pending ground investigations by the relevant enforcement agencies as stated by State assemblyman for Mulu, Datuk Gerawat Gala, on March 5 (The Star, “Sarawak natives bringing Mulu forest dispute to UNESCO’s attention; 14 March, 2019). This week, the communities stopped two bulldozers from operating and recorded video footage of ongoing logging operations.

“The driver claimed he was just maintaining the road but later admitted that he was instructed by his supervisor to continue bulldozing trees on Berawan/Tering and Penan land“, said Willie Kajan. “Thousands of trees have been felled illegally on our lands and can be seen lying on the ground.“

The logged area is now barren. Nothing can replace the trees that have been felled and destroyed. The wildlife has lost their home. It would take at least a century for the original trees to grow back. This is such a huge loss.

On Friday, March 14, 2019 the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) refused to hand out the Environmental Impact Assessment for Lot 2 and 3 of the Radiant Lagoon Sdn Bhd concession to Ukau Lupung, the headman of the affected Penan community, Bateu Bungan. Ukau and his son had travelled to Kuching from Mulu to get hold of these documents which are compulsory before any deforestation activities are undertaken.

“We are very disappointed that our government is not playing by the rules and unduly favouring the company interests instead of listening to us“, Ukau said. “We have been on this land for generations and now we are not even given any information or consulted on what is going on.“

None of the three core issues raised have been adressed; which are our NCR over the land, the impact on the water catchment area and the encroachment on the ancestral burial grounds.

“We have never been consulted on what is going on our lands and totally disagree on these actions. We call on Radiant Lagoon to immediately stop all activivities and we give them seven days to remove their machinery from our lands“ said Willie Kajan and Ukau Lupung.

On a broader and long term perspective, the local Mulu Berawan and Penan communities are also concerned about how the deforestation can impact the
biodiversity, flora and fauna and natural wildlife that are endemic in the area as this could impact the local tourism industry which is the livelihood of the local indigenous communities in Mulu who provide long boat, guiding and homestay accommodation and other tourism services. The Mulu Park and Mulu Marriott Resort businesses would also be affected.

“Would tourists from all over world like to visit a UNESCO World Heritage site with lifeless polluted rivers? How would the bat population be affected in Mulu? These bats fly as far as to Brunei to forage for good. The nightly bat exodus of millions of bats are one of the key attractions of Mulu” said Willie Kajan.

“The forest is our lifeline as it is equal to a “supermarket” and a “bank” to the Penan, Berawan and Tering communities. We need the forest to survive as we hunt and forage the forest for our food and medicinal plants. It is also a source of natural materials that we use in our daily lives. We also plant fruit trees and our harvests are sold.” said Ukau Lupung.

The land that has been granted to Radiant Lagoon Sdn Bhd is also a corridor between Gunung Mulu UNESCO World Heritage site and the Brunei forests. This corridor is the only area where the Penan, Berawan and Tering communities can hunt and forage as they cannot do so within the area of Mulu National Park. In addition, the wildlife traverse through the corridor as a migratory route between Mulu Park and the Brunei forests.

There is a lot of talk about sustainability, deforestation and ensuring that local native interests are taken into consideration. Hence, this is opportune moment for the Sarawak government and the relevant authorities to take action to ensure that our forests, environment and our interests are protected.


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