Switzerland honours Sarawak activists


PETALING JAYA: Switzerland has honoured two Sarawak activists with the Bruno Manser Prize for Moral Courage.

They were Komeok Joe and Peter Kallang, the Bruno Manser Fund announced in a statement today.

The prize is named after rainforest activist Bruno Manser and honours personalities who have proven moral courage in defending the environment and human rights.

Komeok Joe and Peter Kallang are the first to receive the new award and were chosen for their outstanding commitment in defending indigenous rights in Sarawak, the press release said.

Komeok Joe, member of Malaysia’s indigenous peoples network Joas, was honoured for his struggle to defend the rights of the Penan.

Since the late 1980s, he had been working to protect Sarawak’s remaining primary forests and for the acknowledgement of the land rights of the Penan.

The statement said the commitment of Komeok Joe and the Penan Selungo communities had resulted in significant areas of primary rainforests being preserved until today.

Peter Kallang, as chairman of the grassroots network SAVE Rivers, was honoured for his courage in defending indigenous livelihoods against the threat of dams.

He and his fellow activists had managed to convince the Sarawak Government to cancel the Baram Dam, which would have led to the resettlement of up to 20,000 indigenous people, the statement said.

Kaspar Müller, representative of the Bruno Manser estate, praised the two activists.

“You receive this award in the name of all of us and we all do it with our deepest and profoundest respect for your long engagement in favour of the rights of indigenous people and for the protection of the rainforests.

“Congratulations and thank you for all you have done and what you have achieved.

“Bruno Manser, who disappeared on May 25,, 2000, 16 years ago, would be very proud of you.”

Swiss activist Bruno Manser lived with the Penan in Borneo’s rainforest from 1984 to 1990.

With his moral courage in defending the Penan’s rights against logging activities, he became an iconic figure of the international movement for forest protection.

Bruno Manser disappeared in 2000 in Sarawak’s rainforest. Until today, his fate remains a mystery.