MIRI: A group of 200 Penans has declared 163,000ha of forest in Upper Baram as a Penan peace park, claimed the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), a Swiss-based environment movement.
In an e-mail to Bernama, BMF claimed a declaration ceremony took place recently at the remote village of Long Ajeng in Baram to endorse the park, the Penans’ last remaining primary forest, as a nature reserve.
“The Penans wish to develop tourism in their region and insist on the protection of their native customary rights,” the statement said.
The statement quoted former headman James Lalo Kesoh as saying that his community depended on the forest for their livelihood and needed to preserve it for future generations.
“Even though we have been settling down and starting life as farmers since the late 1950s, we still depend on the forest for our food, medicinal plants, raw materials such as rattan to make handicraft and other jungle produce,” he said.
Meanwhile, Long Ajeng headman Jawa Nyipa said the Penans hoped the declaration would enable them to live peacefully with neighbouring tribes as fully-recognised Malaysian citizens.
“We named it as Peace Park because peace is an important concept in our culture,” he added.
The Sarawak government had earmarked the area for logging. — Bernama
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