Penan refute timber firm’s denial of logging in Long Pakan

Desmond Davidson

PENAN folk deep in the interior of Sarawak have refuted a timber company’s claims that it was not logging in Long Pakan.

In a video contradicting the company Samling, the ethnic group showed satellite images of a road the firm is  alleged to be building on their land as proof of encroachment.

Samling, one of Sarawak’s six largest timber companies, had late last year denied claims that it had encroached on Penan land in Long Pakan in the upper Baram.

The Malaysian Insight has reached out to the company for a response.

The satellite images, the Penan say, are proof “of a clear intention to extract timber” from their land which “is outside the concession area”.

The video message, recorded on February 20, is believed to have been made by a Penan villager named Dison Betik.

“We are from the village Long Pakan. Here we can see the work of the timber company Samling, taking place on our land,” said the villager in the video.

“According to Samling, this area is not in Long Pakan. As we are standing here (on the logging road), we can tell you that this is not true.

“The land that is being destroyed from Samling is our native customary rights land.

“They have already taken trees and built bridges and roads. We appeal for your help us get rid of the Samling company.

“That is the desire of the people of Long Pakan.

“Our headman never gave Samling permission to exploit our forest. We stand up for our land and our forest.”

The Long Pakan villagers said claimed construction of the road began in August last year.

The Penan had the help of Simon Kälin, project coordinator and geographic information system (GIS) specialist at the Bruno Manser Funds, in making the video message.

Kalin visited the area in February where he took down GPS coordinates of the logging road and the “destruction” caused in the construction of the road.

Kalin said in his analysis of “available satellite images”, he had no doubt that Samling had been building a road into the area as claimed by the community.

By late February, the road had reached within 2km from Long Pakan.

Kalin concluded that Samling would not build the road if it had no intended to extract timber.

Komeok Joe, head of the Penan organisation Keruan, in his reaction said Samling’s actions were tantamount to “denying our existence”.

Samling is reported to have entered the area with the support of some Long Pakan youths.

The village elders and other community members responded with a blockade in September, and headman Pada Jutang subsequently lodged a police report in early October.  – AFP, March 25, 2022.

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