Devastating Land Grabbing in Sarawak ー A Case of DDB Bawan Plantation ー

Japan Tropical Forest Action Network (JATAN)
Steering Committee Member Akira Harada

One day in April community people living along Sungai Bawan saw several excavators destroying their area for their traditional harvestings like sago, rubber and paddy. DDB Bawan Plantation Sdn Bhd entered their Pemakai Menoa area without any prior notice to 10 communities (longhouses) including Rh. Juti and Rh. Mulie. The company has kept evicting not only traditional harvesting areas but also reservation area (pulau galau) to open for oil palm plantation. They submitted a police report.

Floating Debris on Sungai Bawan

Police Report

According to an article from Sarawak Report, DDB Bawan is owned by “one of the Taib family’s favourite crony plantation tycoons Yee Ming Seng”. The name of Yee Ming Seng has been refered as a masetermind of the recent serious breach of NCR caused by Radiant Lagoon Mulu Land Grab case.

Community members interviewed claimed that DDB crushed large parts of Pemakai Menoa including Temuda, Jerami and Pegerang (all of which are fallow lands for swidden agruiculture). They critisied the plantatuion company as severely violatiing NCR. On LAND AND SURVEY DEPARTMENT SARAWAK MUKAH PRINT-OUT-OF TITLE issued on 20 July, 2019 the company’s allocated land area is 1,774 hectares. But the people said the destroyed area is much larger.

Land Title

Land rights activist Bill Kayong was killed in a drive-by shooting in broad daylight in Sarawak on June 21. “His death has sent shockwaves across the state,” said Matek Geram, an energetic NCR lands defender, SADIA . He also feels threatened. SADIA has been warking with communitoes to prepare documents and community mappings for court and consulting with lawyers. Matek had ever received many silent phone calls that made him feel uneasy since he started working for the communities. One day he was intimidated by a gangster, who said that the company would sue him unless he stops working with them.

Sarawak governance system allows for logging and large oil palm plantations to encroach upon indigenous territories. The violations of the indigenous customary land rights are in fact a national issue that result from various basic weaknesses, limitations and flaws in the governance and legal framework concerning land, forestry and conservation areas, at both the federal and state levels.

In December 2016 the Federal Court had on 21 December 2016, ruled that the Dayak people cannot apply their native customary rights (NCR) on land to claim virgin forests as their territorial domains and communal forest reserves at a court case referred to as the TR Sandah case, Since then indigoenous communiltites are facing some difficulties to defend their traditional land rights.

Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme will be implemented on a mandatory basis by the end of this year. In coming months or years CPO sourcing from DDB Plantation will come into Japanese market advertised as "sustainable palm oil". But even as far as NCRs themselves are concerned, oil palm produced in Sarawak is far from "sustainable".

Sungai Bawan Video Produced by JATAN, November 2017