The pressure on Malaysia to certify their timber as sustainable for the international market is increasing. Malaysia, therefore, developed their own certification standard, the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS). A closer look at the situation in Sarawak reveals concerning flaws in the implementation process to the expense of the affected communities.
In Sarawak, three certificates for sustainable forest management for natural forests have been granted so far under the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS), all to the logging company Samling: Ravenscourt FMU (2018), Ulu Trusan FMU (2018) and Gerenai FMU (2020). Samling is currently applying for the MTCS certificate for the Suling-Selaan FMU.
According to the local communities, they have not been duly informed or consulted and their own visions for their forests have been neglected:
Lack of engagement with affected communities
Samling has not properly and openly informed and consulted the communities within their FMUs about MTCS. Most of the villagers of the communities within Ravenscourt as well as Gerenai FMU are not aware that they are with a MTCS certified area, nor are they aware of the implications. MTCS, however, requests:
MTCS Principle 3:
“The legal and customary rights of indigenous peoples to own, use and manage their lands, territories, and resources shall be recognised and respected.”
MTCS Criterion 3.1:
“Indigenous peoples shall control forest management on their lands and territories unless they delegate control with free, prior and informed consent to other parties.”
The Penan communities affected by the Ravenscourt FMU received letters for consultation for a re-evaluation of the Ravenscourt FMU in July 2020. The communities of Long Tevenga, Ba Peresek and Long Gita, however, had not even known up to that point that their territories were under a MTCS certificate. None of these communities has granted their Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
The same happened in the Gerenai FMU: The Gerenai Community Rights Action Committee (GCRAC) as well as the village committee of the Jamok have written various complaints about lack of consultation and information as some of the leaders became aware of the ongoing certification process. These issues have not been solved until today. Nevertheless.
Samling received the MTCS certificate for the Gerenai FMU in April 2020 – while the whole country of Malaysia was under a strict Movement Control Order.
Lack of transparency
Sarawak is known for the lack of public access to Social and Environmental Impact assessments. Affected or interested people can often only access the studies in the offices of the the Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) and are denied the right to take copies. The requests of affected communities to receive copies of the 2018 Social Impact Assessment as well as the two Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) of re-entry from 2012 and 2014 for the Gerenai FMU were not responded to.
The availability of key documents such as EIAs and SIAs is pre-condition for consultations and Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
Neglect of conservation attempts of local communities
While Samling is certifying their timber extractions, many communities within their FMU have a different vision for their area: They want to protect parts of their forest for future generations, wildlife and ecotourism.
The Kenyah Jamok communities of Long Siut and Long Tungan expressed their will to protect their communal forest “Ba’i Keremun Jamok”. Nevertheless, the logging company Samling received the MTCS certification for the Gerenai FMU, covering the community’s communal forest. This is a disrespect for the community’s right to control their forest management.
The Penan communities within the Suling-Sela’an FMU have strongly defended their forest against logging and want to establish the Baram Peace Park together with the communities of the Kenyah Jamok. Samling is currently applying for certification of this area. But the communities’ will to protect the area needs to be respected. They want to establish a park that protects the environment, provides sustainable income and nurtures their culture.