KUALA LUMPUR: The Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) is crying foul over an article published by the Associated Press (AP) titled "Rape, abuses in oil palm fields linked to top beauty brands” on Nov 18.
In a statement today, the CPOPC said the few unconfirmed interviews published by the United States-based news agency in the article were selected to intentionally harm the image of the palm oil industry as a whole.
"CPOPC has viewed the serious allegations of sexual harassment and assault as reported by the AP with grave concern and will look into the allegations as a matter of urgency.
"Rape is a criminal offence in Indonesia and Malaysia. The CPOPC member countries, as well as all of its stakeholders, do not tolerate nor condone any violations of national laws which protect the rights of women to a fair and safe working environment, including the palm oil industry,” it said.
The council has urged affected palm oil-producing countries to investigate the reported cases.
"It is important for the governments concerned and other stakeholders of the industry to shed more light on the allegations.
"Greater transparency, good governance, firm policies, and procedures are an integral part of the sustainable palm oil standards in the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil and Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certification schemes,” it said.
As part of its strong commitment and transparency, the CPOPC will share the results of the investigations by the parties concerned about the allegations.
Meanwhile, FGV Holdings Bhd (FGV) said in a filing with Bursa Malaysia today that the firm does not tolerate any form of violence or discrimination nor does it compromise the health of its workers, regardless of gender.
The plantation company also said it views the recently reported allegations of rape and abuse in oil palm fields seriously.
"Should these allegations be true, perpetrators must be found and be brought to justice.
"Although women make up only around 10 per cent of FGV’s upstream workforce, the company attaches great importance to protecting and safeguarding their rights and well-being,” it said.
FGV said it does not practice discrimination as its female workers are offered the same terms of employment, benefits and entitlements as male workers.
"In terms of wages, both male and female workers receive equal pay for equal work. FGV’s adherence to Malaysia’s Minimum Wages Order 2020 also applies to all workers,” it said.
"We prohibit pregnant and breastfeeding mothers from handling chemicals, pesticides and fertilisers,” it said, adding that it remains committed to respecting human rights and upholding labour standards.
"We view seriously the findings of the United States Customs and Border Protection which led to its issuance of the Withhold Release Order on FGV’s palm oil and palm oil products, and will continue to intensify our efforts towards enhancing our labour practices and addressing any remaining gaps,” it said. - Bernama