Time To Take Responsibility
Tradewinds Plantation Berhad yesterday said the authorities were partly to blame for the clash between its workers and villagers at its plantation in Simunjan on Tuesday.
The company alleged in a press statement that one of its workers was assaulted by the people in the area and by ‘hoodlums’, who it claimed were brought in by individuals involved in a land dispute with the company.
It said the reluctance of the relevant authorities to take concrete action against the locals involved in the incident despite numerous police reports lodged previously, had contributed to the incident.
“Tradewinds will not be responsible for the safety of the villagers within the area, in the event that the Indonesian workers at the estate retaliate against the locals due to the inaction of the authorities.
“This is because the Indonesian guest workers of Tradewinds, who are earning an honest living in this country, may be provoked into taking action into their own hands upon seeing a fellow countryman being assaulted and if no strong preventive and investigative actions are being taken by the authorities to resolve the matter,” it said.
It added that there had been continued intrusions by villagers – assisted by unknown persons – into the estate to illegally harvest its oil palm fresh fruit bunches.
Those in West Malaysia who tend to rail at concerned ‘westerners’ who raise issues about mass plantations related to land grabs, abuse of native rights, exploitation of imported foreign workers, pollution, deforestation and corruption ought to heed this reported incident, which is highly representative of the 400 plus land rights cases that have reached court in Sarawak.
This major company has apparently issued a press statement threatening it ‘cannot be held responsible’ if its foreign workers unleash violence against local people accused of ‘stealing’ fruit from ‘their’ plantations and allegedly duffing up an Indonesian worker in a fight.
Sarawak Report is not yet clear about the details of this clash, but it is one of numerous similar tensions between indigenous communities (whose native lands were appropriated by the state under new laws that controversially abolished their rights) and big companies, which prefer to bring in low paid workers (including slaves from North Korean political prisons) rather than pay decent salaries for back-breaking work in the sun or down their mines.
Local people on the ground in East Malaysia have worked out what sanctimonious urban Love My Palm Oil crusaders (nursing their palm oil share portfolios) have not, which is that so far this ‘modernisation of their economy’ has lost them their land, razed their surroundings of all the valuable timber (profits off-shore to the five timber mafia families and politica overlord), precipitated a mass extinction and climate change and left them with precisely nothing.
‘Progress’ has turned these once proud and self-sufficient folk into stealers of fruit, for which they are expected to thank the Sarawak state government mafia and the palm oil industry. These are matters the West Malaysian critics over the water seem to be less informed about even than the school children of Europe.
It is time they realised why European customers are trying to pressure for signs of greater social justice and environmental awareness before they buy the products of plantations like Tradewinds, who feel entitled to issue threats to local people in such a way and even criticise the state authorities who set them up in the first place.