Opinion piece by Marcus Colchester, May 2019
International NGOs have condemned an announcement by the Malaysian palm oil giant IOI Group (IOI) that it intends to sell its stake in a controversial palm oil plantation that has been at the center of a longstanding conflict with communities in Sarawak, Malaysia.
In April, the European Parliament by a substantial cross-party majority adopted a report highlighting the human rights violations, labour abuses, land grabbing and environmental destruction associated with the production of palm oil.
Exasperated with the lack of discernible progress that IOI has made in resolving the land dispute between its majority owned subsidiary IOI-Pelita and the community of Long Teran Kanan and others on the middle Tinjar river in Sarawak, NGOs sent a letter today spelling out what a resolution would mean from their point of view.
“For indigenous peoples, the environment is inextricably linked to every aspect of their lives and survival. They are the pillars of sound environmental governance.” – with these words Tan Sri Razali Ismail, from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKUM), welcomed participants to the 6th Southeast Asian Conference on Human Rights and Agribusiness.
Sabah (Malaysia) - The High Court of Sabah just settled a landmark agreement between the indigenous Dusun and Sungai peoples of Tongod District and Genting Plantations. The case, which has dragged on since 1997 and been in the courts since 2002, concerns a large-scale palm oil development on community lands in central Sabah (North Borneo).
Participants at the World Indigenous Summit on Environment and Rivers, WISER Baram 2015, hosted by the grassroots network SAVE Rivers collectively produced a declaration that acknowledges the widespread suffering and destruction caused by dams, and stresses the importance of obtaining Free, Prior, and Informed Consent from communities impacted by dam building.
Sarawak, Malaysia: A new film from the Borneo project, Broken Promises: Displaced by Dams, made in conjunction of the indigenous peoples of central Sarawak and many support organisations summarises the threat posed by 17 large dams under development. Featuring interviews with numerous Dayaks and activists, the film describes the impact of previous dams, shows the strong and growing mobilisation in opposition to these impositions and calls for alternative development and energy supply systems.
On 4 – 6 November, National Human Rights Commissions and civil society organisations of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Lao PDR and Myanmar, congregated in Yangon for the Fourth Regional Conference on Human Rights and Agribusiness in Southeast Asia. This year it was hosted by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, co-organised by Forest Peoples Programme and RECOFTC – The Centre for People and Forests, and supported by the Rights and Resources Initiative, Ford Foundation, the Climate and Land Use Alliance, and the UK Department for International Development.
The global forest crisis is worsening and infringements of the rights of indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities are rising, according to a detailed assessment of nine country cases. Climate change mitigation and conservation policies must place community land rights and human rights centre-stage if they are to achieve the goal of sustainably reducing deforestation says the report.
Deforestation and forest degradation in Malaysia is a complex phenomenon with varying causes. So far, however, the focus has been largely on direct causes like industrial logging, large-scale commercial oil palm plantations and agribusiness, road construction and large dams. Far less attention has been paid to the indirect or underlying causes and agents, inter-linking and working to enrich the very few while creating hardships for many people as a result of degraded or diminished resources.
A new report issued by SAVE Rivers, a Sarawak Indigenous Peoples Network, details violations of Dayak peoples’ rights by both the government and companies planning to build a huge dam across Sarawak’s second largest river, the Baram.
This report issued by SAVE Rivers, a Sarawak Indigenous Peoples Network, details violations of Dayak peoples’ rights by both the government and companies planning to build a huge dam across Sarawak’s second largest river, the Baram.
Through the eyes of Sumen, an indigenous community strives to preserve their land and way of life in the rich rainforests of Sarawak. His will to stop a palm oil plantation is as strong as the currents of the mighty river Rajang.
This is the ninth chapter of 'Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads'.
This case study looks in some detail at oil palm concessions granted in 1996 to a local joint venture company Rinwood-Pelita on the middle Tinjar river in northern Sarawak which overlaps the customary lands of communities of the Berawan, Kayan and Kenyah peoples. The local enterprise was acquired by the Malaysian transnational palm oil company, IOI, a prominent member of the RSPO, in 2006.
This is the tenth chapter of 'Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads'.
This study examines an oil palm plantation being developed in the very centre of Sabah by the Kuala Lumpur-based Malaysian company Genting, which has interests in real estate development, casinos, tourism as well as palm oil. Its subsidiary Tanjung Bahagia Sdn Bhd has opened up some 8,000 ha of lands with an associated palm oil mill on lands claimed by the Sungai and Dusun peoples of Tongod District in the headwaters of the Kinabatangan river. After unsuccessful attempts at dialogue with the company and appeals to the government, in 2002, the communities took their case to court. During the past 10 years, the case has proceeded laboriously through the hierarchy of high courts, appeals courts and the Federal Court but owing to sustained objections by the defendants the communities’ pleadings have yet to be heard. The case exemplifies the tensions between the RSPO’s voluntary standard, which requires respect for customary rights and the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent, and the State’s laws and land allocation procedures, which deny these same rights.
Growing global demand for palm oil is fuelling the large-scale expansion of oil palm plantations across Southeast Asia and Africa. Concerns about the environmental and social impacts of the conversion of vast tracts of land to monocrop plantations led in 2004 to the establishment of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which encourages oil palm expansion in ways that do not destroy high conservation values or cause social conflict. Numerous international agencies have also called for reforms of national frameworks to secure communities’ rights and to develop sound land governance.