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2 Jun 2021

Fiona McAlpine, Eco-Business

Indigenous communities threatened with legal action by timber giant as flooding devastates Sarawak

2 June 2021

For the second time this year, the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah have been hit by devastating floods. The remote longhouses that haven’t been submerged are now little islands of safety, with dozens of families isolated from the outside world by both a strict Covid-19 movement control order and rising floodwaters.


A national and international campaign is now growing around these communities. As far as the export market is concerned, buyers often believe products are sustainably sourced if they are certified by bodies such as the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) and the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). However, over the last year pushback from local communities whose forests have been certified by these bodies raises serious doubts about the reliability of these programs.

36 indigenous Penan and Kenyah communities earlier in May lodged official complaints with the MTCC, asking for reconsideration of timber giant Samling’s concessions on their land. This comes after many months of documenting a lack of free, prior and informed consent, and reportedly unpermitted logging outside of approved coupes — including in watershed areas crucial to preventing flooding.

Communities also question the validity of consent provided in cases where no environmental or social impact assessments have been released to affected communities or the public.

Samling and MTCC have gone to great pains to refute these claims without engaging with communities in any meaningful way or releasing these crucial documents. Now, Samling has resorted to threatening Indigenous communities with legal action in an unprecedented move that seems designed to silence criticism.


Part of the following timelines

Malaysia: Timber company Samling accused of flawed environmental certification & legal threats against Borneans forest defenders; incl. co. response

Malaysia: Indigenous peoples seek revocation of timber company Samling's concession for lack of free, prior & informed consent