Malaysia: slashing Sarawak’s forests for palm oil

Penan and Berawan people resisting logging in Mulu forest, Sarawak, Malaysia Indigenous people protesting the destruction of the Mulu forest (© Bruno Manser Fonds)

May 7, 2019

Cutting down timber worth $10 million without a permit? It's not an unusual occurrence in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The Mulu forest on Borneo is scene of the crime – rainforest destruction for an oil palm plantation.

The palm oil company Radiant Lagoon, which wants to establish a plantation near the UNESCO World Heritage Site Guntung Mulu National Park, is responsible for the destruction. 730 hectares of forest have already been cleared in the 4,400-hectare concession area. The company is associated with Double Dynasty, a supplier of palm oil to the likes of Nestlé, Unilever, Mondelēz and P&G.

The illegal felling of 30,000 cubic meters of timber was uncovered by the Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF) during investigations in Malaysia between December 2018 and March 2019. This is only one example of the illegal activities of the palm oil sector in the region. “Sarawak is the dirty backyard of Malaysia’s palm oil industry,” observed Lukas Straumann of the BMF.

The concession was granted to the son of Taib Mahmud, the Chief Minister of Sarawak at the time, in 2008. The lease for the concession amounts to a mere 60 US cents per hectare per year, and the environmental impact assessment is under lock and key. The local Penan and Berawan/Tering indigenous peoples, who were not consulted, are resisting the destruction of their ancestral forest. A delegation is currently raising awareness of the issue in London, Paris, Brussels, Geneva and Bern.

Please sign our petition, which we are promoting together with Bruno Manser Fonds, calling on the Sarawak state and Malaysian federal governments to annul oil palm concessions already granted and issue a moratorium on new plantations.

To witness the beauty of the Mulu region, the threats the forest faces and the heartbreaking impacts on its inhabitants, please watch The Mulu Land Grab (11:54).