The Penan of Ba Jawi reject logging and forest certification and want to continue their lives as nomads
(BA JAWI / BARAM / SARAWAK) In a letter to Samling sent today, the remote Penan community of Ba Jawi in the upper reaches of the Baram river adamantly reject logging: “As the last nomads of Baram, we ask Samling to stay away from our forests and allow us to continue to live like our ancestors and carry on their legacy and culture.” The village is part of the Gerenai Forest Management Unit (FMU) which received certification under the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) in 2020. The village expressed their rejection of timber extraction and of forest certification in a letter to Samling in the context of the on-going Surveillance Audit.
In 2010, the community filed an NCR lawsuit against Samling in an attempt to preserve their forests. In 2012, Samling entered the forests of Ba Jawi and logged one of the last intact primary forest areas of Sarawak without the community’s consent. Certification Body SIRIM is conducting the second surveillance audit for Gerenai FMU from the 17th until the 21st of July. Prior expressions of disagreement with logging by the community have not led to the exclusion of their territory from the production zone of the Gerenai FMU. Now the community has submitted a map of their territory with a clear expectation that their area will be marked as a no-logging zone on future maps of the FMU.
In the letter to Samling’s COO James Ho Yam Kuan, representatives of Ba Jawi wrote: “We are the Gang family, the headman family of Ba Jawi and the main guardians of the forest and territory of Ba Jawi. For about 200 years our family has lived, hunted, gathered and collected sago within the boundaries of our territory. We, the people of Ba Jawi, are the last semi-nomadic Penan in the whole of Baram. We are the guardians of the nomadic Penan culture. We herewith state that we ourselves control our forests and refuse to delegate it to Samling or any related party. We are within our rights to withhold consent for any logging on our land.”
Like many villages in the area, Ba Jawi is part of the Upper Baram Forest Area, an initiative supported by local communities and the Forest Department Sarawak under the umbrella of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). Several communities in the UBFA area have now resolved to boycott these consultations for certification that ultimately misrepresent their interests, and have decided instead to send letters to the FMU managers that explicitly reject logging.
Earlier this week, five civil society groups called on SIRIM to cancel the MTCS certificate for Gerenai FMU following a series of audit reports confirming Samling’s lack of community engagement since 2019. In May, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) officially accepted a complaint against Samling after determining there was “sufficient evidence” regarding violation of FSC policies, including alleged violations of traditional and human rights and destruction of high conservation value forests.