Last month, the community of Long Moh submitted a letter to Samling demanding compensation for unpermitted logging on their land. Dated 8 November, the letter was signed by 300 community members and is the second plea made by the community to Samling, after an initial letter sent in September received no response from the company.
Long Moh community members reached an agreement in June 2018 with a Samling representative, who in a minuted meeting agreed that the company would not perform any logging activities in the Bekia, Ampai and Seru’en areas of Long Moh’s land.
Throughout 2020, however, Long Moh villagers discovered that logging had taken place in all three of these areas. These locations are of deep significance to the Long Moh community, and include waterfalls, rivers and a sacred site containing historic relics of their people.
In October 2020, community members met with the head of the Miri Forestry Department and discovered that no coupe or permit had been approved for any logging activity in those areas. These areas are also inside the Baram Peace Park, an important indigenous-managed conservation zone recently endorsed by the International Tropical Timber Organization.
Long Moh community representative La’ang Eban explains: “Although Samling is operating by the coupe 04AR and T0411 licence for sanctioned logging in Long Moh, they have violated the standards by encroaching into Bekia, Ampai and Seru’en. They have violated the free, prior and informed consent owed to the affected community by taking timber out of our protected NCR [native customary rights] areas without even informing or consulting us first.”
With the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) and the company already in hot water over violations of indigenous rights in the Baram region throughout 2020, environmental and civil society organisations are dismayed that such a flagrant act of unpermitted logging could repeatedly occur.
Indigenous rights activists Mark Bujang stated: “If Samling goes ahead with entering and extracting timber in the NCR land of the communities in Long Moh, they would have violated their own MTCS [Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme] certification. Samling should comply with its own certification as a minimum standard and should not continue to ignore the community’s plight and demands.”
Copies of the latest Long Moh letter were also sent to the MTCC, Sirim QAS [Malaysia’s certification, inspection and testing body] and the Sarawak Forestry Department on 26 February 2021. The community will continue to fight for compensation in this case and is calling for Samling’s licences in the area to be revoked until these failures can be remedied.
“The people of Long Moh together with our leaders tried to resolve these unsanctioned logging issues with the company but they have failed to respond as required by the MTCS or any other standards that were supposed to hold them accountable. We urged that their logging permits be revoked as soon as possible in view of these failures to comply,” said Thomas Bilong, another community member representing Long Moh. – SaveRivers.org
Peter Kallang is chair of Save Rivers