In April 2008, I participated in an international fact-finding team that traveled throughout the Malaysian state of Sarawak to document reports that Indigenous communities were being systematically deprived of their land and other basic human rights through collusion between the state government and oil palm companies. Sadly, this practice has not stopped despite more than two years of efforts by Indigenous advocates and supporting groups like RAN.
Yesterday, I learned that the state Land and Survey Department demolished 25 homes in Sebauh, near the city of Bintulu (on Malaysian Borneo). The state claims that the homes were illegally built on state land, but the department moved forward with the destruction despite the fact that the community’s land rights claim is still pending in the courts. (Sarawak’s legal system is bogged down with such cases, and they drag on for years. Our fact-finding team found multiple instances where homes or crops were demolished despite on-going legal disputes.)
The now homeless community members report that state officials intentionally destroyed all of their possessions during the demolition. In response, about a hundred community members have set up a blockade to prevent the rest of their homes from being bulldozed.
We’ll continue to monitor this situation and let you know what you can do to help. In the meantime, this is another reminder that we need to make sure that any palm oil that goes into the products we buy is produced in a manner that respects both the environment and human rights. Go to TheProblemWithPalmOil.org to take action and learn more.