Len talif says proclamation of penan peace park has no legal

Statement made in response to Borneo Natives Proclaim Tropical Forest Reserve
Kuching, Sarawak, MALAYSIA
Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Datu Hj. Len Talif Salleh, Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Planning and Resource Management also Director of Forests, Sarawak issued a statement today saying that “the establishment of Penan Peace Park announced by 17 Penan Communities at Long Ajeng recently has no legal basis, not in consultation with the relevant authorities thus not recognised by the State”.
He was responding to recent media report “Borneo Natives Proclaim Tropical Forest Reserve” where Penan communities were said to proclaim a new forest reserve. It was reported that the Penan “wish to develop tourism in their region and insist on the protection of their customary rights”. This group represents a small fraction of the Penan communities against the wishes of the majority of the Penan population. The former being a group of Penan instigated and manipulated by foreign NGOs to sensationalize the issue to raise fund in the international communities, to further their ill intended agenda. This is a reflection of their post-colonial mentality syndrome

Commenting further on Penan Peace Park areas, Len Talif said “the said Peace Park is located largely within Permanent Forest Estate (PFE)”.

He voiced his disappointment over the lopsided report which tainted Sarawak’s image and its government effort to date in the area mentioned, not only directed to assist the Penans but also other communities such as Kenyah, Berawan, Kelabit, Saban and others, who are also using the forests for their subsistence.

Citing some examples, Len Talif said “much improvement has been achieved towards living standards of communities in the area including Penan, but this was downplayed to serve the purpose of some hidden agenda by some purported human righteous group who claimed to be NGOs. This is severe, because their actions, hoodwink and instigations may rip the Penans off their rights, be opposed to the Government and be anti-development”.

“Piped water supply and toilets have been supplied to Long Lobang and Long Sabai, community-based activities are actively conducted by various agencies, fruits, and vegetables cultivation with training, planting material as well as supplies are provided to them, assistance rendered to facilitate birth certificates and MyKad applications for over 230 people from more than 10 villages, construction of a suspension bridge across the 30m wide Sg. Kubaan so that the communities will do away with the need to endanger their lives to cross the fast flowing river and schools in Bario and Ba’ Kelalan even have their own village museum and nature study centre”.

Other State Government initiatives said Len Talif include the Flying Doctor Service, setting up of Penan Service Center in Long Beruang, southeast of Pulong Tau National Park, which is equipped with facilities such as clinic, school, helpdesks and others.

Hence, he added that all these examples are proof that Penans are not neglected and everyone is included in the State development agenda. Adding on to that Len Talif assured all “more projects are coming to these areas in 2010”.

However, he wished to highlight to the media that “there are many success stories of Penans overcoming diversity and successful in their own rights. We have to tell their stories as well”.

“We have to see the bigger picture, analyse the story from different perspectives and assist the Government to put a stop to sensationalized provocation, which are meant to jeopardize the harmony and bring havoc, instead of benefits to the communities” Len Talif emphasized.

The State Government has also embarked on the ITTO-supported Project implemented by Forest Department since year 2005. “One of ITTO’s recommendations at the end of Phase I of the Project was to extend the national park areas to include community-use zones that integrate conservation and socio-economic development concept for the communities”. This is not far-fetched from the Peace Park and he added that “for all the planned projects by the Government to benefit the communities, protests and empty talks should cease”. Instead, he insisted on the Penan groups that fore fronting the Penan Peace Park “to work in consultation with the Government and enforce actions rather than be involved in empty promises by certain quarters to secure better future for their people”.

The proclaimed area comprises areas approximately 1630 squared km (163, 000 hectares) around the Gunung Murud Kecil mountain range near the Indonesian border and is located between the existing Pulong Tau National Park in Malaysia and the Indonesian Kayan Mentarang National Park.