Campaign Corner: A selection of press releases and short stories highlighting the various campaigns going on in Malaysia.

JOAS Press Statement: Orang Asal are partners, not threats, in forest conservation

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25 May 2014

KOTA KINABALU: Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS), Partners of Community Organisations, Sabah (PACOS Trust) and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) calls on the Sabah Forest Department (SFD) to get rid of their outdated mentality on Social or Community Forestry.

Jannie Lasimbang, former SUHAKAM Commission and a JOAS Secretariat Director said “the SFD Director, Datuk Sam Mannan has made derogatory and erroneous remarks about natives or indigenous peoples of Sabah living in forest reserves. It is a big embarassment that Sabah, as host to the 2-day ASEAN Social Forestry Network (ASFN) Conference and lauded to be have been selected because of its good social relationship with communities in forest conservation and climate change adaptation to make such a statement.”

The Social Forestry in Biodiversity Conservation strategies adopted officially by ASEAN

endorsed the recognition and the enforcement of indigenous peoples’ territories and customary forests, and that communities should not be separated, but seen as part of the solution.

Lasimbang added “SFD’s Social Forestry model is short-term, and considers people as threats to forest reserves. Datuk Sam Manan projected that the social forestry model in the Kelawat Forest Reserve would bring the community in Kg Ponopuan such good economic returns that they will then leave the Forest Reserve after 20 years. We strongly urge the SFD to pay attention to their commitments at ASEAN and get the concept of Social or Community Forestry right”.

Lakpa Nuri Sherpa of the AIPP also emphasised that “tenureship of community forestry must be developed with more foresight and long-term planning, prioritising timeframes that enable life-sustaining approaches to guarantee sustainability and well-being of future generations”.

Nasiri Sabiah of PACOS Trust, who is also from the Alab Lanas community that found themselves included in the Ulu Sungai Milian Forest Reserve rejects the model. “We love our kampung land and even if we become rich, we will always go back there. We will refuse to be evicted by the FMU holder, Bornion Timber.”

SFD considered evicting the people or charging them in court, which would be a blatant violation of human rights since the natives were there and have established Native Customary Rights before the creation of the the Kelawat Forest Reserve (KFR). The community settled in Kg Ponopuan around the ‘70’s but the KFR was only gazetted in 1984. Even that gazettement did not comply with the principal Forest Enactment 1968 provisions of giving notice to communities before it was gazetted.

JOAS, PACOS Trust and the AIPP reiterates that the Forest (Constitution of Forest Reserves Amendment) Enactment 1984 side-stepped the requirements for notification and enquiries under the principal 1968 Enactment. In their statement it said “our State Legislative Assembly should never have passed such an amendment and should be reviewed to give clarity to the law. This negligent decision has caused many communities who suddenly found themselves within Forest Reserves to suffer in the hands of the SFD”.

Many native communities, including the Kg Ponopuan and Kg Mangkawagu communities, have shown goodwill through its acceptance of Community Forestry projects/agreements with SFD. The SFD should match this commitment by projecting native people in a positive manner in all their statements and engagements. After all they are party to the ASEAN Social Forestry strategies to ensure effective community engagement at the operational level and adopting Free, Prior and Informed Consent as a minimum standard requirement for implementation.

Thomas Jalong, JOAS President said “it is regrettable that Datuk Sam Mannan, as head of Sabah Forest Department cannot accept these standards and show respect to indigenous communities, and has instead chosen to display negative attitude and thoughts towards the indigenous peoples ways of life and means of livelihood. JOAS regards his statement as a deliberate deviation from the noble concept and objectives of social forestry which underlines the need to respect the tenure and access rights of indigenous communities to their lands, territories and forest resources. We must move forward on indigenous rights in this country and acknowledge their important roles in the sustainable management of our forests.

Thomas Jalong JOAS President

  •   JOAS is a national indigenous body with members comprising of 89 indigenous community-based organisations and indigenous peoples organisations in Malaysia.
  •   PACOS Trust is a Sabah-based organisation and part of the SFD technical adviser on Sabah REDD+ Roadmap.
  •   Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) is a regional body comprising Indigenous Peoples movements and organisations in Asia.

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