Oct 4, 08 5:28pm
The Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra) had lost a ‘golden opportunity’ to showcase its success in the development of native customary rights (NCR) land for oil palm cultivation because its chairperson Alfred Jabu refused to meet with a group of local and foreign NGOs.
This was because the NGOs’ main objective was to report their findings in Sarawak to organisations who buy palm oil from Malaysia in accordance with the principles and criteria acceptable to their respective countries, said Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) president Sidi Munan.
Sidi was responding to a statement by Jabu who is also deputy chief minister for blaming Sadia for Salcra’s last-minute decision to call off a meeting with Sadia and foreign NGO representatives on April 22 this year. Salcra is a state agency involved mainly in oil palm-based NCR land development.
Jabu said Salcra was prepared to meet Sadia officials but not the foreign NGO reps for a briefing on the agency’s activities in Sarawak.
The deputy chief minister said the foreigners were “intruders who are nothing in their own countries and these NGOs are only looking for opportunities to make up stories.” Responding to Jabu’s charge that Sadia had taken advantage of a scheduled meeting to bring along univited foreign NGO representatives ‘apparently not acceptable to Jabu,’ Sidi said the foreign NGOs were in Sarawak on a fact-finding mission relating to the principles and criteria of Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) scheme.
Three Sadia officials, including secretary-general Nicholas Mujah, were the ground organisers of the fact-finding mission. The other two were Peter John Jaban and Ruekeith Jampong. They were tasked with arranging visits to various palm oil plantation companies in Sarawak.
The organisers recommended Salcra to the fact-finding mission team because it believed Salcra would benefit from the RSPO scheme. RSPO is a scheme to ensure that Malaysia produces quality palm oil for export to Europe and America.
Although membership of the scheme is voluntary, most of the big buyers in the palm oil industry have volunteered to participate in the scheme. Sidi, also a former deputy chairperson of Salcra, revealed that the participating NGOs which formed part of the fact finding mission were Centre for Community Economics Consultants Society (CECS) of India, led by Justice Pana Chand Jain; Sustainable Development Foundation (SDC) of Thailand, led by its Director Ravadee Prasertcharoensuk; Rainforest Action Network (RAN) of America, led by Debra Faith Erenger and Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PAN AP) of Malaysia, led by its director Sarojeni Rengam. The Sadia chief said in his press statement that he hoped in the event of another exercise, government agencies dealing with plantations would have no pre-conceived idea about NGOs and officials delegated by Sadia.
“The NGOs were not intruders and the individuals sent to the Salcra meeting that day (April 22) are individuals with their own pride and honour,” Sidi added. In a Borneo Post report on Sept 25, Jabu had claimed the request for the meeting with Salcra was politically motivated based on what he called “the identities (of the individuals) and the ultimate intention of the visitors to Salcra office.”