MIRI: The controversy over the massive forest-clearing adjacent to Mulu National Park in northern Sarawak has taken a new twist.
A pastor of a local church in Miri has lodged a police report against non-governmental organisations and environmental activists for allegedly trespassing into Mulu and setting up human-blockades against an oil palm company.
Pastor Lian Malang is a native from the Kenyah ethnic group while the natives in Mulu are from the Penan, Berawan and Tering ethnicities.
Malang said he lodged the report on Saturday (March 23) against the NGOs because "they are allegedly causing trouble in the Mulu area".
Asked how he is linked to the dispute between the natives and the oil palm company, Malang said he "represents the community leaders of Mulu who want to see socio-economic development in the area".
"I lodged the report against the NGOs because they are allegedly stirring up trouble by instigating the protests against the plantation company.
"These NGOs do not represent the natives of Mulu.
"We community leaders represent the Mulu folk who want to see socio-economic development in Mulu that can benefit the people.
"The community leaders in Mulu held a meeting and we have made a decision not to allow any NGOs to enter Mulu without permission."
Asked which NGOs he believed are stirring up trouble in Mulu, Malang claimed it was the Bruno Manser Foundation.
"We community leaders want to stop them from entering Mulu again," he said on Sunday (March 24).
On March 20, the Sarawak Forestry Department was told to suspend the logging permit issued to an oil palm giant to cut down the forests at the fringes of Mulu National Park.
The advice to suspend the logging came from Mulu state assemblyman Datuk Gerawat Gala.
Gala had told the Sarawak Forestry Department that the loggings at the Mulu fringes must stop for now due to the heated confrontations between groups of Penans, Berawans and Terings natives against the plantation company workers there.
Earlier last week, fresh confrontations erupted at the fringes of Mulu between the protesting natives and workers of the oil palm giant.
The Penans, Berawans and Terings forcefully stopped tractors and excavators of the oil palm plantation company from cutting down and extracting trees adjacent Mulu.
The protesting natives forcefully blocked the plantation workers from operating and also used big ropes to tie up the heavy machineries.
The flare-up started when the natives found out that the plantation workers had resumed cutting down trees at the forests next to Mulu and digging up the land. This was despite ongoing investigations into claims of trespassing by the loggers into native land there.
The protesting natives are being led by three leaders - Ukau Lupung who is a Penan and Willie Kajan and Dennis Along who are Berawans.
Kajan said thousands of trees had already been cut down by the plantation company to clear some 4,400 hectares of forests to set up an oil palm estate.
The protesting natives want the plantation workers to leave the Mulu vicinity and remove the heavy machineries immediately.
Mulu National Park is a world heritage site that is home to the largest cave systems on the planet.
Located 200km inland from Miri, Mulu is also home to many species of animals and plants found only in Sarawak.
The Mulu natives had erected human blockades against the plantation workers since last month.