Indigenous delegates from Sarawak, Malaysia visit the United Kingdom this week to talk about Britain’s part in the destruction of rainforests in Borneo. The UK is the third largest importer of MTCS certified timber in the world
(LONDON, UK/BARAM, MALAYSIA) An Indigenous delegation from Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, is visiting the United Kingdom to launch a new UK campaign to clean up the tropical timber trade and ask the UK government to suspend the import of so called ‘sustainable timber’ under the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme MTCS. The UK is the third largest importer of MTCS-certified timber in the world . The new CUT campaign (Clean up the Tropical Timber Trade) highlights the impacts of destructive logging in Borneo’s forests and Indigenous territories and encourages the UK, as a key market destination for Malaysian timber, to act.
While in the UK, Celine Lim, Indigenous Kayan leader and head of the Malaysian grassroots organisation SAVE Rivers, and Komeok Joe, a Penan elder and head of Indigenous organisation KERUAN – Voice of the Penans, have met with UK and European government representatives, Malaysian diaspora and climate justice NGOs and activists. They have raised their communities’ concerns over deforestation and corporations’ failure to respect Indigenous land rights, as well as the role of the UK in driving these impacts.
On Monday 23rd January, Celine Lim and Komeok Joe were joined by over 30 UK supporters in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall to collectively mourn the loss of the world’s rainforests and show gratitude for our Earth. From underneath Cecilia Vicuña’s gargantuan ‘Dead Forest Quipu’ installation, Komeok Joe and Celine Lim called out in solidarity to Indigenous Earth activists across the globe, and bestowed a traditional Sarawak ‘ash blessing’ on participants during a powerful ritual-ceremony devised by British artist and activist Gaby Solly. The group went on to form a ‘funeral procession through London, to hand-deliver letters to the UK Government and to King Charles, Leader of the Commonwealth, demanding UK action to stop further rainforest destruction.
In the letter to the King and the British government, communities explain: “the logging companies tell the UK that their timber is sustainable. Do not believe them. They have not asked us for permission to log on our territories.” The letter invites the King and British government representatives to visit their area and witness the destruction themselves: “After seeing the destruction of our forests with your own eyes, we cannot imagine that you will still allow this timber to enter your country.”
Last year, the Indigenous delegation visited the Netherlands, top importer of MTCS-certified timber, to bring their #StopTheChop campaign abroad and show how the global community is linked to destruction of the rainforests.
– End of release –
Pictures from the ceremony at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and from the funeral procession to FCDO’s office and the Buckingham Palace.
Copyright of pictures: Kelly Hill
 With 22,381 m3, the United Kingdom was the number three destination for MTCS certified timber (endorsed by PEFC International) after the Netherlands and Japan in 2020
Malaysia has also offered to help mitigate the UK’s timber shortage caused by the war
SAVE Rivers supports and empowers rural communities to protect their land, rivers, and watersheds through capacity building, networking, research, education, and advocacy.
Keruan Organisation advocates for and represents the aspirations of the Penan community.
Friends of the Earth is an international community dedicated to the protection of the natural world and the wellbeing of everyone in it. We bring together more than two million people in 75 countries, combining people power all over the world to transform local actions into global impact. For more information visit: friendsoftheearth.uk follow us at @friends_earth, or like our Facebook page.
CUT is a developing partnership campaign to Clean Up the Tropical Timber Trade in the UK. We want to amplify the voices of Indigenous rainforest Peoples, so that they are heard, responded to and respected by UK consumers, businesses and our Government.
The Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF) is committed to protecting the threatened tropical rainforests and the rights of the Indigenous peoples, especially in Sarawak, Malaysia.
The Borneo Project, based in California USA, brings international attention and support to community-led efforts to defend forests, sustainable livelihoods, and human rights.