(LONG LAMAI & KUCHING/ SARAWAK / MALAYSIA) The Penan living at the upper reach of the Baram River in Sarawak, Malaysia, request the Chief Minister Adenan Satem to issue a moratorium on logging and plantations in their home area. They explain the need for a moratorium with the fast speed of deforestation threatening the last remaining areas of primary forests, which are crucial for the establishment of the proposed community-managed park in the area.
In a press statement, former Penan Penghulu James Lalo Kesoh explains the importance of the forest to the Penan and the threat of logging to their culture: “Our lives depend very much on a sound environment, a rainforest that can provide us with all for satisfying our needs; our identity and social wellbeing depends very much on our ancestral lands, the territories our fathers and grandfathers lived on. These forests are our history, our present and are meant to be our future. Our traditional way of living is threatened by uncontrolled logging activities.”
The letter with the demand of a moratorium on logging was sent out last week, just on time for the Sarawak state elections on May 7. In the letter, James Lalo Keso underlines the demand for a moratorium with satellite images of the area of Ba Jawi situated at the border to Indonesia: “in 2010, the Ba Jawi area was still covered with pristine primary forest, while in 2015 – after five years of logging – the area is severely degraded and the biological diversity has been reduced considerably”. Ba Jawi is a very biodiverse area with great importance to the Penan.
James Lalo Keso states that the Penan have managed to conserve some areas of intact forest in the Selungo area, which could form the core of a park, and explains that they are under immediate threat of being logged: „We fear that until the park is officially established and the logging concessions will have expired, the last remaining areas of primary forest will be logged in the Upper Baram Area.”
James Lalo Keso also expresses his hopes: “As we do not have any means to make the government accountable, we put our hopes on our Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Patinggi Haji Adenan Satem to strengthen democracy and listen to our voices.”
The demand for a moratorium on logging and plantations follows a proposal for a Community Managed Protected Area in the upper Baram, which was officially sent to the Forest Department in April. Earlier this year, Penan representatives met with the Forest Department to discuss the implementation of a park in the area. The government representatives present at that meeting expressed their interest in the project.