KUCHING: An Orang Asli activist has urged the state government to look into the encroachment of a local oil palm company on native land near Mulu National Park.
Willy Kajan from Long Terawan village said Mulu assemblyman Gerawat Gala had earlier told the oil palm company to immediately cease operations on the native land, but said villagers still witness logging activities.
Kajan said during a meeting on March 4 with Gala and 14 government agency officers and representatives from the oil palm company, Gala highlighted that issues related to water catchment, native customary rights’ land and burial grounds must be resolved immediately.
“We are still holding onto his words until today,” said Kajan when met at the Clean Energy Collaboration conference today.
He criticised the state government for allowing oil palm to be cultivated on their native land without discussing or informing them earlier.
He said the Orang Asli objected to the oil palm plantation because their livelihood is dependent on the natural resources at the area.
“We have been protesting since last year and we really take good care of the forest in our area. If they (oil palm company) continue to encroach on our land and forests then we will lose all of our source of income.”
“The forest is like our supermarket, bank and hospital,” he said, adding that most of the villagers in Long Terawan are farmers, fishermen and hunters.
Meanwhile, Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) claimed that a bank in Singapore had loaned US$31 million (RM126 million) to the oil palm company to convert 4,400 hectares of native forest land into oil palm plantations.
Last month, the Swiss anti-logging group accused authorities of intimidating indigenous leaders, following reports of an Orang Asli leader being threatened with arrest for protesting against the encroachment by the oil palm company.
Sarawak’s assistant minister for urban planning, land administration and environment Len Talif Salleh dismissed the claim.
“I’m not going to help them (BMF) popularise their agenda by spreading lies to the world and get more funding,” he said.
He said the oil palm plantation has been operating there for years, and native leaders can refer to the Forestry Department, the state’s Natural Resources and Environment Board as well as the Land and Survey Department to resolve their problems.