Sarawak in East Malaysia is part of the Borneo Island that harbours one of the last remaining rainforests in Asia. It is also home to the Dayaks (Indigenous People), who comprise almost 60% of this largest Malaysian state’s population, and who have inhabited these rainforests and adjoining lands for generations – through the traditional governance system that has existed long before any foreigner set foot on their lands, ensuring the rights of the people over lands and the usage of lands.

However, today, these very majority Dayaks have got marginalized in their own native places and their lands have forcibly been taken over for palm oil plantations by the government as well as private companies and corporations. This has jeopardized the survival of the Dayaks in Sarawak, and is also leading to the decimation of rainforests and their replacement by monoculture plantations of oil palms. Worse, the people’s demands for justice have been met with use of force and legal actions against them by the state or at the behest of the plantation owners. As many as 170 cases have been registered against the indigenous people. This is clear violation of the Native Customary Rights of the people. The land disputes also violate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which states, “Indigenous peoples have the rights to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or uses, as well as those which they have otherwise occupied.”

In April 2008, an International Fact Finding Mission (FFM) comprising an eminent judge from India and civil society members from Thailand and the United States of America, visited the state of Sarawak to look into the alleged violations of the people’s native rights and privileges. The Mission visited about 70 villages in south, central and north Sarawak, talked to over 800 people individually or collectively and collected evidences of people’s traditional ownership of the lands there.

The evidences prompted the Mission to deduce that while people have pre-established rights over land, which have been recognized by the federal court of Malaysia, these are not recognized as such by the executive body on ground. It has also been found that in cases where communities have been party to giving their land for oil palm plantations, the plantation owners have rarely honoured their agreements with the people. The cases documented by the IFFM are contrary to the principles of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil as well.

Moreover, IFFM noted that palm oil plantations are being expanded at a rapid pace and there are strong prospects of corporations going in for palm oil expansion for agro-fuel, which will only worsen the state of the indigenous people in particular and the rainforests in general.

It is in these contexts that the online edition of the “Speak Out – Rampaging the Rainforests” is presented to you with an appeal to sign on to the online petition letters. Please also ask like minded individuals and organizations, your friends and other contacts to also sign on to this petition.

Please support the struggle of indigenous communities in Sarawak by signing on to the online petition letter at:
http://www.foodsov. org/html/ petition12. php

The petition letter will automatically send the petition letter to different government officials and institutions in Malaysia and encourage them look into the case.

If you wish to download the documentation of the fact-finding mission, please click on this link:

http://www.foodsov. org/resources/ rampaging. pdf

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