Sarawak government refuses to recognize Penan Peace Park

Sarawak government refuses to recognize Penan Peace Park

KUCHING, SARAWAK / MALAYSIA. As the world leaders who are gathered at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen are negotiating over a deal to protect tropical forests in a new REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) agreement, with the aim of enhancing forest carbon stocks in tropical countries, Sarawak authorities are making it clear that they do not intend to change their approach to dealing with forest matters and native rights. In today's Borneo Post, Sarawak state forest director and Acting Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Planning and Resource Management, Len Talif Salleh, refutes the attempts of indigenous Penan leaders to protect their last remaining primary forests in Sarawak's Upper Baram region.

According to the Borneo Post, Len said the state "did not recognise this park as the communities had not consulted the relevant authorities on the matter" and because "the so-called peace park was located largely within the Permanent Forest Estate (PFE)", which is earmarked for logging by the Malaysian Samling Group. Len stated the international media reports on the Penan's proclamation "tainted Sarawak's image" and he accused the Penan of being "instigated and manipulated by foreign non-governmental organisations" which, according to Len, displayed a "post-colonial mentality".

In November, the leaders of seventeen Penan communities had met at Long Ajeng in Sarawak's Upper Baram region to celebrate the official opening of a 163,000 hectare tropical forest reserve. On the occasion, James Lalo Kesoh, the former pengulu (regional chief) of the Upper Baram region, said the Penan intended to preserve the basis of their livelihood and their cultural heritage, which was entirely in the forest.

The new "Penan Peace Park" has the potential to become an international model for a community-managed protected area in Malaysian Borneo's last remaining primary forests. Malaysia is a signatory to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), as well as to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). In February 2007, the Malaysian government committed itself to protecting the Borneo rainforests, together with Indonesia and Brunei, in the Heart of Borneo Declaration, a conservation initiative by the WWF.

(17 December 2009)


Extract of The Borneo Post, 17 December 2009
(The Borneo Post is owned by the Malaysian KTS logging group):


Proclamation of Penan Peace Park has no legal bearings: Len

KUCHING: The establishment of Penan Peace Park announced by 17 Penan communities at Long Ajeng has no legal basis and is not recognised by the state government.Acting Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Planning and Resource Management who is also state forest director, Datu Len Talif Salleh, said this when countering a recent media report entitled ‘Borneo Natives Proclaim Tropical Forest Reserve’.
He said the state did not recognise this park as the communities had not consulted the relevant authorities on the matter. It was reported that the Penans “wish to develop tourism in their region and insist on the protection of their customary rights”.

According to Len, the so-called peace park was located largely within the Permanent Forest Estate (PFE). He voiced out his disappointment over the lopsided report which tainted Sarawak’s image and the efforts of the state government in assisting the Penans and other communities such as the Kenyah, Berawan, Kelabit and Saban who also use the forests for various purposes. He said the group announcing the establishment of the park represented a small fraction of the Penans. As such, what they did was against the wishes of the majority of the Penans. They were instigated and manipulated by foreign non-governmental organisations to sensationalise the issue to get funds from international sympathisers to further their ill-intended agenda, he said, adding that this was a reflection of their post-colonial mentality.

Citing some examples, Len said much improvements had been achieved in terms of the living standards of the communities in the area including the Penans, but this was downplayed to serve the hidden agenda of some self-righteous human groups who claimed to be NGOs. This, he said, was severe because their actions might deprive the Penans of their rights when they oppose the government and are anti- development.

“The government has provided piped water and toilets for Long Lobang and Long Sabai; carried out community-based activities; trained locals on fruit and vegetable growing; facilitated applications for birth certificates and MyKad for over 230 people from more than 10 villages; constructed a suspension bridge across the 30-metre wide Sungai Kubaan; and there’s village museum and nature study centre in Bario and Ba Kelalan,” he said.

Other state government initiatives include the Flying Doctor Service, and a Penan Service Centre in Long Beruang, south-east of Pulong Tau National Park. The place has a clinic, school, helpdesks and others, said Len.

In giving assurance that more projects would come to these areas next year, he highlighted the many success stories of Penans overcoming adversities and becoming successful.

“We have to see the bigger picture, analyse the stories from different perspectives and assist the government to put a stop to sensationalised provocations,” he said. He also pointed out that the state government had embarked on ITTO-supported Project implemented by the Forest Department since 2005. “One of ITTO’s recommendations at the end of phase one of the project was to extend the national park to include community-use zones that integrate conservation and socio-economic development,” he said.
This is not much different from the peace park concept, and as all government projects benefit the people, protests and empty talks should cease, he said. Instead, the group behind the Penan Peace Park should work in consultation with the government.

The proclaimed area covers approximately 1,630 kilometres (163,000 hectares) around the Gunung Murud Kecil mountain range near the Indonesian border and is located between the existing Pulong Tau National Park in Malaysia and the Indonesian Kayan Mentarang National Park.


Following the cancellation of the Baram Dam, the communities of Baram are proud to announce the launch of the Baram Conservation Initiative.