Communities within the Gerenai concession united against logging

MIRI – Gerenai Community Rights Action Committee (GCRAC) which consist of disgruntled communities within the Gerenai concession has converged at Mega Hotel Miri, seeking answers as to how Samling was able to get the timber certification from the Malaysia Timber Certification Council (MTCC) when most of the villages were not properly consulted. Other speakers who attended the one day seminar were Forest Department Sarawak, SIRIM QAS International Sdn. Bhd., World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature Malaysia and Universiti Putra Malaysia, Bintulu Sarawak Campus.

According to GCRAC, the event was a huge letdown, as Samling stayed hidden throughout the whole event. Even the Chief Forester, David Marsden, who was well aware of the situation, kept himself mum. As a matter of fact, the logging giant seemed to hide behind invited speakers, hoping that they would provide an explanation and that those answers would suffice.

Those who attended the seminar compared the event to a “meet and listen” session. Speakers were given ample time to explain how the certification came about and occasionally praised Samling for complying to the certification requirements. Questions asked were never given any clear answers, further irritating the communities.

Boyce Ngau of Long Selawan expressed his frustration regarding the event, “I posed three questions during the Q&A’s session, paying attention to the speakers on stage but I never got any answers. Firstly, I requested them to produce the agreement about the certification but this was ignored. Same goes with the map of the area involved. When they mentioned the community’s involvement in this work, I was hoping that they could explain how it would benefit us but alas, it seemed like it fell on deaf ears. The meeting is a waste of time, very unproductive and is not transparent.”

He continued, “I attended numerous ‘kampung’ meetings but never once was MTCS ever mentioned to us. We never hear of this certification from our headman. We only found out about this prior to the MCO, when we noticed markers were lined up by the river banks. In the past Samling kept on saying that the ‘kampung’ folks reaped the benefits of them logging our land but whatever fortune they have was from working elsewhere. The community remain poor as before, whereas Samling take everything.”

“They have claimed that they have visited all the communities within the concession yet, when I mentioned Long Selawan, they confidently told me that we do not belong in the concession. If they have done their work properly, they would know, even though Long Selawan is located on the other side of the Baram river, we have ancestral land within the Gerenai. How can they claim that they have the majority of consent, when they don’t even know about Long Selawan. Did they actually carry out their work?”

“We from Long Selawan strongly opposed any logging work where our land is! We don’t want our pristine environment to be destroyed and polluted by the selfish company.” concluded Boyce.

Many communities who share the Gerenai have also voiced their concern over the certificate.

“What I can conclude about the seminar is that it’s non-interactive. We never get to ask any questions after each speaker has finished their presentation. We had to wait till the end to do so. Speaker wasn’t able to give a definite answer. They used “I think” or “I am not sure”
“Also attendance was poor. This seminar was supposed to be attended by the headman and his community but what I saw was only us (the community). This is now how it should be. Both FMU and MTCC do not take our complaints seriously. Why do they still award Samling with the certificate when all of us are still opposing it?”

“Samling should also present their expected income from the harvest, show us too what we can expect from this. What we want is to have good road leading to the ‘kampung’, they should focus on this instead”, Lusat Tebengang, Long Palai.

Another community member from Long Julan, Patrick Keheng commented, “How is Samling able to continue logging on our land? Who has given them permission? We don’t want this. What we want is to stop any logging activities within the Baram area. Sarawak Forestry should cease issuing or renewing any new licenses.”

“Samling claimed that they have consulted villages within the Gerenai and that they have been given support and consent to carry out work there. However, meeting the headman with only his community members does not equate consulting the masses. The majority of us ‘kampung’ folks were left in the dark, we do not know what was agreed between the headman and Samling. Nothing was discussed with us.”

He ended by saying, “The seminar in Miri was handled quite poorly. We have questions for the Forest Management Unit (FMU) Manager but we never had the opportunity to ask him. The presentations made by panel speakers were the same as the one they have done last year, nothing new. Seeing how they treat us, we will still continue our fight to end logging on our land”

“The seminar just proved that the community is unhappy with this certificate. There should be another round of consultations, meet with everyone instead of just meeting with the headman and his committee. Get everyone’s feedback. Attendance does not mean consultations. Samling must also follow the written procedure set by the auditors. They can’t just say one thing and do the other thing”, added Dominic Mathew Usek of Tanjung Tepalit.

Long Selawan, Long Julan, Long Palai, Tanjung Tepalit and Long Tungan are among the communities who want all logging activity within Gerenai to stop. The Baram community has farmed, hunted and foraged on their land for years. Allowing logging will limit their food supply and affect their livelihoods. Those who share these concerns are encouraged to  sign the petition to stop the destruction of Sarawak’s forests and stop certification without compliance by heading to saverivers.org/stopthechop.

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Boyce Ngau is the Vice Chairman of the Gerenai Community Rights Action Committee (GCRAC). For further information, please contact him at 019 885 6146.

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