Sarawak natives bringing Mulu forest dispute to Unesco's attention

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 14 Mar 2019

Already cleared... Some 4,400 hectares of forests adjacent Mulu National Park being cut down for an oil-palm plantation. - Drone pic

MIRI: The Mulu National Park natives, currently staging human blockades against an oil-palm giant to stop forest-clearing, are bringing their fight to the world stage.

These disgruntled Mulu natives have lodged an official complaint to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) headquarters in Paris.

Mulu is a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Penans and Berawans protestors have sent an official letter to Unesco, seeking the intervention of the world body to get the Sarawak government to stop the forest clearing.

In their letter, they are asking Unesco to mediate in the dispute, as the forest clearings will upset the ecology of Mulu itself and affect the food, water sources and social lives of the natives.

Community elders from among the Mulu Penans and Berawans came to Miri a few days ago to send the letter to Unesco from here.

"The move to rope in Unesco is because the state government has refused to revoke the permit it issued to the Miri-based oil-palm company to open the 4,400ha plantation adjacent Mulu.

"Despite the series of human-blockades and road-blocks set up to stop the forest-clearings, the state government has not cancelled the permit given to the plantation firm.

"We want Unesco to intervene and get the Sarawak government to permanently cancel the plantation project next to Mulu," a native leader told The Star.

The state enforcement agencies in charge of environment and land claims and natives affairs are already in Mulu and its vicinity to probe the natives' claims of deforestation and destruction of graves and water sources by the plantation workers.

State assemblyman for Mulu, Datuk Gerawat Gala, on March 5, asked these enforcement agencies to start ground investigations in and around Mulu without delay.

Among the investigating agencies are Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board, State Land and Survey Department, District Office, Resident Office and Natives Court.

Gala, on March 5, also chaired a closed-door meeting in the Miri Resident Office with the protesting Penans and Berawans, the oil palm plantation management and the enforcement agencies to try to resolve the issue.

However, the deadlock remains unresolved.

These natives have since last month erected human-barriers across the road, leading to Batu Bungan settlement at the Mulu fringes to stop the forest-clearing.

Ukau Lupong, a Penan chief, is leading the protest that involves about 300 natives.

The Batu Bungan village is located at the boundary of Mulu National Park, which is home to the largest cave systems in the world.

Mulu National Park is about 200km inland from Miri.

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