Malaysia: the Murut struggle against palm oil, for land and life — Sophie Chao

Source: The Ecologist

Supported by state and national governments, palm oil plantations are advancing over the rainforest hills of Sabah, Malaysia, writes Sophie Chao. In their way: the indigenous Murut of Bigor, whose culture, livelihood and very lives are under threat as forests and farms fall to chainsaws and bulldozers, enriching loggers and distant investors beyond the dreams of avarice.

We must continue to fight, for our children need to eat, and our grandchildren need to know what is a forest, and what is the way of life of the Murut people who came before them, and who will come after them.

Bigor longhouse with land cleared for oil palm in the background. Photo: Sophie Chao.

Bigor longhouse with land cleared for oil palm in the background. Photo: Sophie Chao.

In the remote village of Bigor, about 250 kilometers southwest of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah, local community members gather in the longhouse (rumah panjang in Malay language), the traditional dwelling of the indigenous Murut people.

Slumped in his wheelchair, a makeshift sling supporting his right arm, the dying light of dusk casting shadows over his diminished frame, Statly Bin Ampihang (see photo), a 48 year old indigenous Murut Tagol man and head of Bigor village, tells the story of a tsunami.

“The oil palm company arrived, and made us sign contracts that we did not understand. They told us they would help us – make our lives better, give us jobs, increase our welfare. The government told us that the laws would help us secure our customary lands and forests.”

“Instead we were hit by a tsunami. But this tsunami was not a natural disaster. It was caused by our government. And now our lands are oil palm plantations. We have nowhere to hunt anymore. We have nowhere to plant our crops. Our economy has been destroyed. We are disappointed, for we have been deceived by our government.” Read more

Orang asli group out to block TNB’s dam – again

Source: The Star Online

KUALA LUMPUR: An orang asli group has hauled Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) to court to stop construction of a dam at their village, after blocking a similar dam project in the same location.

The ongoing legal saga between Jeffrey Hassan and 10 other villagers against the national electricity company was over the construction of Telom Hydroelectric Dam that was approved in 2013.

In the court documents sighted by The Star, the villagers claimed the dam would be constructed over ancestral land, located at Kampung Pos Lanai, Kuala Lipis in Pahang.

The 1,500 Semai-tribe orang asli who lived there depended on the land for drinking water, farming and fishing.

In 2012, they were moved to a new village by the Department of Orang Asli Development (JKOA), on the assumption they would still have rights to the land.

In 2013, TNB informed them about the dam project and told the villagers they would not be able to return to the land.

This prompted the villagers to file a suit in 2015, where they claimed they were moved under fraudulent circumstances. Read more

Special award for Sabah natives at event

Source: Daily Express

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Kota Kinabalu: For the first time, a special award will be given to recipients from indigenous communities in Malaysia for promoting the rights of indigenous people in the coming national-level World Indigenous Peoples Day celebration.

It was reliably learnt that recipients from Sabah, home to the largest number of ethnic communities in the country, are on the list.

The award gives recognition to the recipients’ outstanding life’s work in advocating the rights of indigenous peoples, most often under extreme hardships and pressures.

The national-level celebration, which is hosted by rotation among the three regions in Malaysia, is held in Selangor this year from August 6 to 9 at Taman Botani Negara, Shah Alam.

The annual event is co-organised by the Malaysian Indigenous Peoples Network together with Tourism Selangor and also in collaboration with Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) to bring together international and local participants.

This year’s theme is “Back to the roots, #Landrightsnow!” in conjunction with the worldwide “Land Rights Now” campaign to protect and increase global recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ land rights. Read more

JOAS to map out Orang Asal traditional lands and territories

Source: The Star Online

JOAS community mapping trainees downloading and collating the data into maps, with lead-trainer Nousi Giun from Sabah, guiding. /JOAS

JOAS community mapping trainees downloading and collating the data into maps, with lead-trainer Nousi Giun from Sabah, guiding. /JOAS

PETALING JAYA: Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) has announced plans to map out and consolidate Orang Asal territories in conjunction with a global campaign on indigenous and community land rights.

The worldwide campaign by #LandRightsNow was signed on by over 300 organisations which aim to double the global area of land legally recognised as owned or controlled by indigenous peoples (Orang Asal) and local communities by 2020.

“Land rights for Orang Asal, is not just an issue of livelihoods, our traditional land is the source of our identity and culture,” said JOAS secretary-general Jannie Lasimbang in a statement on Wednesday. Read more