A Penan village chief has appealed to Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem to reconsider the ethnic group’s request to alienate land for a Peace Park.
The government under Adenan’s predecessor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud had rejected the idea of alienating a large swath of land in the interior close to the Sarawak-Kalimantan border exclusively for a small ethnic group.
Bilong Oyau, the village chief of Long Sait, said at the launch of Australian journalist Paul Malone’s book “The peaceful people: the Penan and their fight for the forest” in Kuching, that he is more optimistic of Adenan fulfilling the request of the Penans since “Taib had not done much to improve their plight”.
Bilong said fulfilling their request meant the government was respecting their rights to their native land.
The Penan Peace Park comprises an area of approximately 1,630 sq km around the Gunung Murud Kecil mountain range close to the Sarawak-Kalimantan border in the Upper Baram and Tutoh region of the state.
It is located between the Pulong Tau National Park in Sarawak and the Indonesian Kayan Mentarang National Park.
The area, estimated to be still 60% intact primary rainforest, is considered a core settlement area for the Penan Selungo (Eastern Penan) rainforest group, whose request was made with the intention of conserving the last remaining primeval forests as a nature reserve.
The Penans said the rejection of their request was due to the area being already earmarked for logging.
In 2012, a delegation of nine leaders representing 18 Penan communities formally presented their request to the state government.
They said the Peace Park was not only meant to defend their native customary rights land but would also help them realise their right to self-determination, to protect their culture and to bring about sustainable economic development.
They proposed the implementation of 16 projects in the areas of cultural heritage protection, nature conservation, and economic and institutional development.
The Penans also planned to revive their language and traditional knowledge.
Bilong said the Peace Park could also be a tourist attraction.
A small number of Penans still lived as nomads. – October 30, 2014.
Source: The Malaysian Insider