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Correcting the wrong picture by Alex Singleton

July 6, 2012

FMT LETTER: From Robert Hii, via e-mail

I refer to the FMT article, ‘Correcting the wrong picture’ published on July 4. Malaysian palm oil companies should really hire someone who can write instead of repeating the same old whines over and over. Western NGOs and activists are not picking on Malaysian palm oil per se, we are picking on palm oil, the mono culture that will see rainforests all over this earth being surrendered to it.

The writer Alex Singleton did pick a great spot to write from, Sabah, in my opinion the last hope for Borneo’s endemic species. But listening to his tone, you’d think that all of the remaining forests in Sabah are protected. Not true.

A lot of it is under license for timber and following that, palm oil but he obviously missed this part. Sabah will be under attack and with US$3.2 billion in palm oil’s pockets, they’ll be looking for every last piece of forest available there.

Palm companies routinely admit that Malaysian plantations are getting old and not giving the yields needed and you can see an aggressive move offshores.

In the words of Cameroonian NGO, Struggle to Economise Future Environment, which is fighting a palm plantation there, “offshores, foreign companies” these are US, Indian and Malaysian companies including Sime Darby which is looking to grab 600,000 hectares.

This is the palm oil that the West is up against. Having seen the environmental carnage in Malaysia,Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Western NGOs and activists are speaking up before Africa’s endangered primates go down the same slippery slope as the orangutan.

And we have not even mentioned the joint ventures in the Philippines, Cambodia and soon to come, Myanmar.

This is not about trade favouritism. It’s about fighting to keep the last bits of the earth’s old forests. NGOs and activists stand up against similar attacks on forests in the US, Canada and Europe, its not about picking on poor old palm oil so get off that whine.

Malaysian palm companies have an opportunity to distance themselves from the Indonesian product in order to produce sustainable palm oil but if they’re hoping to sell it to the West as truly sustainable, they’ll have to work by the same rules we do, respect for nature, respect for those who hold ancestral rights over those lands.

Also read: Correcting the wrong picture


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