Friday, April 1, 2011

Indigenous community seizes oil palm plantations

Indigenous community takes court ruling into own hands and seizes oil palm plantation

March 31, 2011

A community in Malaysian Borneo seized an oil palm plantation belonging to the IOI Group after the palm oil giant failed to respect the terms of a court ruling that the plantation was established on native customary land, reports the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

According to the San Francisco-based activist group, the action came after months of inaction by IOI, following the March 2010 court decision that two concessions held by the palm oil company were planted on community lands. Despite the ruling, IOI continued to operate its plantations. It also broke its commitment not to appeal the court decision, according to RAN. So earlier this month, the people of Long Teran Kenan blocked the road and occupied the plantation. They have since started harvesting and selling the fruit to a nearby palm oil mill.

RAN is highlighting the situation because IOI supplies palm oil to Cargill, America's largest palm oil importer. RAN says Cargill has failed to enact policies that protect against such abuses.

"Cargill is the number one importer of palm oil into the US," writes Lindsey Allen, RAN's Forest Program Director, on the green group's Understory Blog. "This gives Cargill enormous influence over global palm oil markets, including how palm oil is produced, refined and distributed."

"For more than three years, RAN has pushed Cargill to adopt basic safeguards that would ensure the company is not importing human rights violations, rainforest destruction, and climate change. Because Cargill has to date failed to institute these safeguards, controversial palm oil is still found throughout American supermarkets."

Cargill did not immediately respond to request for comment from

Sarawak's forests have been heavily impacted by logging and plantation development over the past three decades. Last year the government announced a plan to expand its oil palm estate by more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) over the next decade. James Masing, Sarawak's Land Development Minister, said native customary lands would be targeted for plantation development.

Forestry companies in Sarawak are known to enjoy close ties to the government, including Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, who has been linked to overseas properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The origins of these holdings remain unexplained.

Environmentalists say less than 10 percent of Sarawak's primary forest cover remains.


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