Aliran is dumbfounded by Plantation Industries Minister Peter Chin’s assertion that tropical rainforests in Malaysia have not been cleared to plant oil palm in the last 10 years.
The Minister was defending the plantation industry from allegations that plantations destroy rainforests and wildlife habitat, increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to a loss in biodiversity. "I would like to reiterate here that Malaysia is not destroying rainforests for palm oil production," he was reported as saying.
This is patently false and the Minister is obviously ill-informed or misinformed. We would like to refer him to Sahabat Alam Malaysia’s recent press statement. The environmental group recently revealed that, between 1999 and 2002, three huge plantation projects, largely located within the Bakun catchment area, were approved by the Sarawak state government. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports for the projects, covering an area of 320,000 hectares, were approved between 2000 and 2003, the group pointed out.
Apart from this, we would like to ask the Minister when the forest for the ASSAR (Amanah Saham Sarawak) Plantation at Lg Urun was cleared for oil palm. This plantation has only been in production since 2004, and there are substantial areas that are still not yet fruit bearing. This means these areas couldn't have been cleared more than ten years ago – unless the land was left empty for around three to four years, which would have been very bad plantation practice indeed.
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Perhaps the Minister could also tell us when the plantation for Sarawak Enterprises in the Asap area was established.
The clearing of forests for oil palm planting in Sabah and Sarawak has been primarily for plantations and carried out by plantation companies – some of them also timber firms. It brings little or no benefit to the local people because these firms mainly employ foreign workers – rather than provide employment for locals – precisely because there is no minimum wage. It is a situation which allows for exploitation. In fact, the low wages paid to migrant workers depress overall wage levels and are a recipe for poverty.
Aliran Executive Committee
7 July 2007