Rainforest tribe forcibly removed from dam area to palm oil plantation
June 23, 2011
A thousand Penan indigenous people have been forcibly moved from their rainforest home to monoculture plantations, reports Survival International. To make way for the Murum dam, the Malaysian state government of Sarawak is moving a thousand Penan from their traditional homes, but as apart of the deal the government promised to move the Penan to another part of their ancestral land. The government has since sold that land to a palm oil company, which is currently clearcutting the forests for plantations.
"Even by the appalling standards of the Sarawak government, which has treated the Penan with contempt for decades, this is breathtakingly cynical. Not only is it forcing more than 1,000 people from the forests they have lived in for generations, it has sold off the area it promised them as a new home, and is allowing it to be cleared for plantations. It looks like the government won't be satisfied until the Penan are reduced to utter poverty and destitution," Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, said in a press release.
The Penan say that the palm oil company, Shin Yang, is illegally clearcutting the forests without its permission.
"If it is allowed to extensively clear and fell the forest, there will be no more forest left for our community to sustain our livelihood," the Penan say, as reported by Survival International.
The Penan people, who are traditionally nomadic hunter-and-gatherers, have faced decades of hardship. They have fiercely resisted loggers and plantation developers on their lands. In recent years their strategy has mostly transitioned from armed standoffs to taking legal action. But neither has been effective in protecting their forest homeland and the government has set an official policy of forcing the Penan to leave the forest and settle permanently.
The Murum dam is apart of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) initiative, which will turn the state's rivers into dammed reservoirs, and its forests into open pit mines, wood-pulp plantations, and oil palm estates, while, according to critics, providing plenty of opportunities for corruption.
Chief Minister of Sarawak, Adbul Taib Mahmud, who is currently under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for alleged timber corruption, has been accused of hiding away hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in corrupt money during his 30 years of power. His family controls properties worth hundreds-of-millions of dollars throughout the world despite the fact that his annual salary is around $200,000.