Indigenous leaders call on importers to put palm oil purchases on hold

Sarawak natives appeal to foreign embassies over Mulu deforestation as Malaysia announces further expansion of oil palm plantations until 2023

(Mulu, Sarawak/Malaysia) Leaders of Sarawak’s Penan and Berawan people have written to the embassies of major palm oil – importing countries to stop purchasing Malaysian palm oil until deforestation has come to an end and the issue of Native Customary Rights has been properly adressed.

On behalf of the Penan and Berawan people, Komeok Joe and Willie Kajan sent a letter to 24 embassies of palm oil – importing countries in which they invite the ambassadors to visit Mulu to “see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears“ how their community forests are being cut down by Radiant Lagoon, a Malaysian palm oil company.

“Officially, Malaysia sells its palm oil to the world as sustainable. But in reality, our lands, our future and our climate are being destroyed for palm oil. […] If the oil palm plantation comes in, we have no place left for hunting, farming as well as for the collection of food and rattan. This will destroy our lives forever.“

On Monday, a meeting between local communities and the Sarawak authorities showed that some Berawan community leaders had been bought over by Radiant Lagoon with a payment of 400,000 Malaysian Ringgit (USD 98,000). The villagers were kept in the dark over the payment while other community leaders had not been consulted at all.

Yesterday, Teresa Kok, Malaysia’s minister of primary resources, admitted that until 2023 another 650,000 hectares of forests and community lands are planned to be converted into oil palm plantations before deforestation may come to an end.

The Bruno Manser Fonds calls on the Malaysian authorities to issue an immediate moratorium on logging for oil palm plantations. A petition launched by the Bruno Manser Fonds in support of the Mulu natives has been signed by 40,000 signatories from around the world.