Home Civil Society Voices 2013 Civil Society Voices Sarawak indigenous communities launch campaign against land grabbing

Sarawak indigenous communities launch campaign against land grabbing

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Sarawak indigenous leaders have launched an online signature campaign against land grabbing by private and government corporations, reports Pan AP.


Over a hundred leaders of various Sarawak indigenous groups gathered at a public forum in Kuching on 15 November to launch an online signature campaign against land grabbing by private and government corporations in their communties.

The forum was jointly organised by the local group Sarawak Dayak Iban Organization (Sadia), the Penang-based Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (Pan AP), and the Jakarta-based Aidenvironment. Sadia president Mr Siti Munan led the launching of the online petition addressed to Prime Minister Najib Razak, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia chairman Hasmy Agam, and Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.

“Sarawak’s indigenous peoples are facing a number of land disputes with palm oil plantations and logging companies, with Sadia documenting at least 400 cases of violation of Native Customary Rights or NCR,” Munan said.

In the petition, Sadia and the forum’s participants outlined 10 demands to the federal government and the Sarawak state government, including among others, respect for human rights and the NCR of indigenous peoples (IPs), which are guaranteed under national and state laws as well as international agreements. (The online petition can be accessed here.)

Entitled “Land, Justice and Human Rights: A forum on the situation of the indigenous peoples in Sarawak”, the gathering was also attended by the Ambassador and Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Malaysia, Luc Vandebon. In his speech, Vandebon highlighted the EU’s commitment to human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples in Sarawak. “Hopefully, activities like this (will) become regular. There is a need for dialogue and consultation,” said Vandebon.

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Pan AP executive director Sarojeni Rengam said that the forum aimed to provide a venue for information sharing on violations of the rights of indigenous peoples and the actions being taken by various communities to defend their rights as well as for policy dialogue with relevant Sarawak government agencies in-charge of protecting and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

“The role of the communities themselves is crucial in defending the rights and welfare of the indigenous peoples in Sarawak. As the actual victims and direct stakeholders, they must take the lead in the campaign to oppose the corporate takeover of their land and other resources, and in promoting their native customary rights and civil and political rights. For the campaign to be sustainable, it is necessary for the IP communities to own, plan and lead it themselves,” Rengam emphasised.

Opposition politicians and members of Sarawak’s legislative body See Chee How and Chong Chiang Jen were also present. They shared insights into what they could do as officials to address the concerns of indigenous communities in the state although both highlighted the need for the IPs themselves to take action. See and Chong both noted that while the courts have in several instances decided in favour of the IPs, these decisions are not implemented, thus the need for people to come together and assert their rights.

The organisers and participants pointed out that under the Constitution of Malaysia and the NCR in Sarawak, the rights of IPs are supposedly protected. They also noted that Malaysia is a signatory to the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UndripP). “Sadly, the survival of indigenous communities in the rainforests is being threatened and their human rights violated by large-scale palm oil production and logging. There is a need to engage Malaysian authorities on their national and international commitments on upholding IP rights,” the petition read.

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Through the online petition and other activities, Sadia, Pan AP and Aidenvironment vowed to gather the broadest and largest support for the campaign against land grabbing in Sarawak and for the indigenous communities to take back their lands.

Source: Pan AP

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Christine Xavier
Christine Xavier
24 Nov 2013 11.28pm

Where is the link to sign the petition?

25 Nov 2013 12.48pm

The link is actually in the article if you click on the word ‘here’.

In any case, here it is again:


najib manaukau
24 Nov 2013 6.54pm

This land grabbing is only part of what the East Malaysians are getting …. The only way to prevent these monkey businesses from going on, the only way out of these shambles is to get out of the Umno cages. You and your brothers and sisters can protest all you want nothing will happen or better still no further actions will be taken.

… just look around you what have you got … One thing for sure is that you are robbed blind and the robbing will go on ….

… No doubt the Umno warlords thought they could teach Singapore and advocated every time when they are unable to get what they want from Singapore and even banded sands from being sold to Singapore for their development.

To cut a long story short look at where Singapore is to day, without the control of the Umno warlords, who have now become blind and dumb in so far as the progress of Singapore goes.

… You too should get out of the clutches of the Umno warlords and be a master of your own destiny !

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