Penan from Ba Abang village set up a blockade against logging in their area and demand a community-elected headman.
(BA ABANG/SARAWAK/MALAYSIA) Today, members of the Penan community of Ba Abang in Sarawak’s Middle Baram once again set up a blockade against logging. The last blockade was stopped a fortnight ago to file a Police Report in Miri on the 1st of February 2023. The protesters are demanding that «the company stop cutting down trees and destroying land without consent», says Panai Irang, the former headman of Ba Abang.
The community has been struggling with the logging company GT Plywood Industries Sdn Bhd, a member of the Malaysian timber giant KTS, since 2016. The situation worsened when the headman of the community, Panai Irang, was replaced by a government-appointed headman who supports logging. After the community heard of this, several community members applied for a judicial review to overturn the decision to unilaterally appoint the new headman Arun Nyaling. The judicial review will be hopefully heart in court soon.
“What we are experiencing now in our village is very sad, the relationship among villagers is far from what we want. We need to choose our new headman, deciding for ourselves who is worthy to be our leader,” explains Panai Irang. Nick Kelesau of the Penan organization KERUAN agrees: «We work with many Penan communities and encounter the same problems again and again. Many headmen are appointed by the government who do not represent the interests of the local people. The communities should be able to elect their own headman.”
KERUAN demands that logging should be stopped immediately until the new headman is elected by the community. Especially as many community members do not agree with the government’s appointment. In addition, the Ba Abang logging concession has not been certified by the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCS) to date, although all Forest Timber Licences are supposed to be certified by MTCS by the end of 2022.
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