Pre-Publication Text for Public Release September 2012
The State of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo is now one of last frontier areas for palm oil expansion left in Malaysia. With most available lands in the Peninsula already planted and most of Sabah already leased out, in Sarawak expansion is accelerating and is estimated to be taking place at some 90,000 hectares (ha) per year. The State already has over 920,000 ha and the Minister for Land Development has plans to double this area to 2 million ha by 2020. About half of this expansion is taking place on lowland peat soils and the rest in the once-forested interior where most land is the ancestral lands of the indigenous Dayak communities. As previous studies have shown there are numerous land disputes between Dayak and oil palm companies throughout the State, and many of these disputes have been taken to court. Although the courts have repeatedly ruled in favour of the Dayak and found that the Sarawak Government’s limited interpretation of ‘native customary rights’ is faulty, yet the State persists in handing out concessions in further violation of communities’ customary rights.