The directive from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to mills in the Sarawak not to accept fresh oil palm bunches (FFB) from smallholders, especially those from estates in dispute, will cause thousands of native landowners to suffer heavy financial losses.
“The losses can run into the millions of ringgit that these helpless farmers have invested in their lands,” Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (Brimas) executive director Mark Bujang said today.
Hundreds of thousands of hectares of oil palm estates are now in dispute between native landowners and joint-venture companies that are taking them over.
To-date, about 400 native customary rights (NCR) land cases, involving many of these oil palm estates, are before the court.
Commenting on the MPOB directive, Mark (left) said: “For now, the villagers from Long Tuyut, Sungai Pelajau, Logan Bunut and Long Teru, Tinjar in Baram and villagers from Kampung Lebor in Serian are crying foul over the directive to oil palm buyers and mills not to accept fruit bunches from these villages.
“The villagers from the four villages in Tinjar have planted and have been supplying oil palm bunches from their NCR land, but just because they are currently in a legal dispute with Boustead Pelita Tinjar Sdn Bhd, MPOB refuses to buy their oil palm.
“Boustead Pelita Tinjar is a joint-venture (JV) company between Boustead Holdings from Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak government agency, Pelita, and they have taken over a number of NCR lands.
“The villagers in Tinjar are not happy that MPOB is playing ‘judge and executioner’ by penalising the villagers before any decision is made in the court of law.”
Villagers too slam Palm Oil Board
Meanwhile oil palm farmers Litus Jau from Logan Bunut and Adi anak Ajok from Long Tuyut in Baram have slammed MPOB for its action.
Litus said: “MPOB is making allegations that we are stealing fresh oil palm fruit bunches from the company, without any proof, and therefore telling the oil palm mills not to buy our produce.”
Adi asked MPOB not take sides and to be professional, adding that “MPOB is treating us like criminals”.
Meanwhile, the villagers from Kampung Lebor in Serian are also crying foul over MPOB’s action to suspend their smallholder farmer licences, which allows the village cooperative, Koperasi Lebor Baru Serian Bhd, to sell fresh oil palm fruit bunches.
At a news conference in Kuching, the head of the village cooperative, Jengga Jeli, said he received a show-cause letter from MPOB on July 26.
The letter demands an explanation as to why his smallholder farmers’ licence should not be suspended or revoked for “stealing oil palm fruits” from another joint-venture company, TH Pelita Gedong.
The villagers of Kampung Lebor took their NCR land dispute case to court and won their case in the High Court in Kuching, and subsequently at the Court of Appeal after TH Pelita Gedong appealed.
The courts have already declared the land as NCR land belonging to the villagers of Kampung Lebor and that TH Pelita Gedong was trespassing.