Baram communities demand consultation in logging firm’s certification

Desmond Davidson

Save Rivers says the MCO enabled Samling Plywood (Miri) Sdn Bhd to avoid consulting communities in a bid to start logging activities. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 23, 2020.

AFFECTED rural communities in Sarawak’s Baram region are crying foul over the way 148,000ha under the Gerenai forest management unit (FMU) has been certified for logging.

They are now demanding the state government cancel the certification – a move that could deal a major business blow to one of the largest timber companies in the state.

Civil society organisation Save Rivers said the certification authority, Sirim QAS International Sdn Bhd, and the company, Samling Plywood (Miri) Sdn Bhd, pushed through the certification process during the Covid-19 movement control order (MCO) period.

The MCO enabled them to avoid consulting communities opposed to the certification, they said.

Save Rivers said Samling had, therefore, failed to comply with the mandatory Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) guidelines and procedures to consult all communities affected by the prospective logging in the FMU.

Certification is important for timber companies to prove compliance with Malaysian and international standards in timber extraction, and can guarantee companies access to environmentally sensitive European and Japanese markets.

But, Save Rivers said Samling’s consultations with communities in the Gerenai concession area was inadequate, and that two objecting communities were left out.

Save Rivers said the two objecting villages are the Kenyah Jamok village of Long Tungan and the Penan village Ba Jawi, which are against logging activities of any kind in the area.

“Long Tungan is particularly concerned about threats to its communal reserve forest, the Ba’i Keremun Jamok,” Save Rivers added.

It also said that while residents of Long Semiyang, a Kenyah village in upper Baram, were “technically consulted”, Samling’s “superficial process of handpicking community members to speak with meant that the community at large had no understanding of what was being agreed to”.

“Save Rivers stands with the Baram communities in calling on Sirim and the Malaysian Timber Certification Council to withdraw their certification until indigenous rights and concerns are heard, understood and respected.”

The group said community leaders had written letters to Samling to object to the logging activities, but were dismissed with claims that the allocation of forest areas and proposed land use were government matters over which the company had no say.

“The Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme is supposed to protect indigenous rights,” Save Rivers said.

“But, the story of Gerenai is just one of the many examples that demonstrate how the system is toothless in practice.” – June 23, 2020.

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