Penan Go To Court To Defend Heart Of Borneo Rainforests

In an effort to stop logging from destroying their livelihood, Penan people in Upper Baram, Sarawak, have filed a collective action lawsuit against Samling and the state government.

Agan and three other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit today alleging their ancestors used the Ba Jawi forests since time immemorial and that they need to be protected.

It says in Penan’s statement of claim that “About 200 years ago, the plaintiff’s ancestors lived in Ba Jawi and its vicinity, exercising native customary rights over the land.” Hunting and gathering food from the forests were their staple foods. Now the plaintiffs are exercising those rights over that same land.”

It’s worth noting that the Penan are claiming that the Sarawak government issued a logging licence to Samling Plywood in an illegal, improper, unconstitutional, and therefore void, manner.

The case will be represented by the renowned law firm of Baru Bian in Kuching, which prepared the case with assistance from the Bruno Manser Fund.

As part of the Penan Peace Park, 17 Penan communities declared a nature reserve in November 2009, covering twice the size of Singapore, the Ba Jawi claim covers part of that region.

A tripartite agreement between Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei in February 2007 committed the three countries to protecting the rainforests of central Borneo, but little action has followed.

Penan Peace Park was even condemned by Sarawak’s director of forests in December 2009 as an “illegal” project that “tainted Sarawak’s image.”

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Alex Jones

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