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Penan communities are dismayed that Samling’s forest certificate was reinstated even though serious problems remain unresolved. They demand a no-logging zone in their territories.

(LIMBANG / SARAWAK) This week some of the last nomadic Penan communities submitted documentation to timber giant Samling to assert their ancestral land rights. The Penan groups, living in the Limbang areas of Northern Sarawak, submitted a letter and a map to substantiate their claims and to demand an exclusion zone exempting their lands from all logging.

This comes as Samling’s Ravenscourt Forest Management Unit (FMU) is undergoing an audit to assess compliance with the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS) this week. Samling lost the certificate for this FMU in July 2023 because of major violations of the standard. Violations include lack of access to information about the certification scheme and the complaints procedure, as well as lack of consultations and social monitoring, all of which the Bruno Manser Fonds criticised during the 2022 audit. After Samling appealed the withdrawal, certification body SIRIM reinstated the certificate in early December 2023 without informing aggrieved communities. SIRIM published the audit report online in late November, but backdated its release to 1st of August 2023. The procedures and corrective actions that led to the reinstatement remain opaque. No updated Forest Management Plan has been made available.

The Penan communities of Long Gita, Ba Nyakit, Long Peresek and Long Tevenga all have territory within the Ravenscourt Forest Management Unit. In the letter submitted to Samling, Penan leaders explain why, as Sarawak’s last nomads, unlogged forests are essential: “Logging negatively impacts our traditional practices: it pollutes our rivers and prevents us from fishing; it destroys our forest and prevents us from hunting and gathering medical plants and sago. We depend on healthy forests for our livelihood and the continuation of the Penan culture. “

Ketua Baru, regional Penan leader from Long Gita and signatory to the letter explains: “We are confused that Samling’s concession on our land is MTCS certified again. We never agreed to this. We insist that still not all Penan communities in the area have been consulted and informed. We ask SIRIM to withdraw the certificate again. As long as Samling has not marked our territories as community use and no-logging zone, we strongly oppose forest certification of the Ravenscourt FMU. We need these areas to continue our nomadic and semi nomadic livelihood, the life of our ancestors.”

Samling has been left reeling after several recent blows to its reputation: the damning report “Lost in Certification” released late last year, the FSC investigation into alleged “unacceptable activities”, and the withdrawal of its defamation lawsuit against local grassroots organisation SAVE Rivers.


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