Sarawak Natives Customary Rights Land Network (Tahabas) has accused Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) of not only of suppressing the rights of the native oil palm growers, but also protecting the giant oil palm companies in land disputes.
Tahabas said that the board sides with companies who “illegally” occupy native customary rights (NCR) land, some of which have been declared as such by the courts.
“The MPOB even accused them of being thieves because they do not have licence to sell fresh oil palm fruit bunches (FFB),” said Tahabas president Ramould Siew in a statement.
He was referring to the MPOB directive to all oil mills not buy FBB from native oil palm growers would affect genuine oil palm growers and smallholders.
“Such directive will affect their income,” said Ramould, commenting on a protest staged by some 200 angry native oil palm growers from Kampung Lebor last week in front of the office of Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) in Serian.
MPOB 'not being truthful'
He alleged that MPOB was not telling the truth when it said that it never gave such directive to oil palm famers who have licences in Tinjar, Baram.
“Many villagers in Tinjar especially from Long Tuyut, Sungai Pelajau, Long Teru and Loagan Bunut have brought their complaints to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) regarding their difficulty in selling their FFB to oil mills due to the directive by MPOB.
“Why should they complain to the NGOs if there was not truth in the directive?” asked Ramould.
He said that several oil palm companies are being taken to court for infringing into the rights of the native people on their native customary rights land.
“You hear now and then, the NCR landowners won their cases in the High Court and the Court of Appeal,” he said.
Despite, their legal victories, the MPOB is seen as conspiring with these oil palm companies to suppress the native oil palm farmers, he added.
On oil palm famers from Kampung Lebor in Serian, Ramould said that the MPOB should not have suspended the licence belonging to Jengga Anak Jeli because he was alleged to have stolen FFB from TH Pelita Gedong.
Jengga is the manager of the Koperasi Lebor Baru Serian Bhd.
Court decisions not abided
“This is because the villagers of Kampung Lebor have won their case against TH Pelita Gedong in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, which have decided the oil palm planted in their NCR lands belong to them.
“MPOB should not act the way it did as such a directive will not solve the problems of NCR land disputes in Sarawak. In fact what MPOB is doing is worsening the current situation.
“MPOB should be more professional in dealing with these problems and should not support or side the companies only,” he said.
Ramould added that several big oil palm companies are members of the international Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
One of the objectives of RSPO is to respect the rights of indigenous people on their land, he said, pointing out that in Malaysia especially in Sarawak several companies which are RSPO members had breached this principle and criterion.
Tahabas, he said, would raise the issue with RSPO.
On Saturday, MPOB in a statement said that it enforced licensing on smallholders to ensure that stolen FFB are not sold to mills.
Bernama reported that this is in the wake of 304 police reports made over alleged FBB thefts in Sarawak from 2013 until July this year and 12 cases of unsubstantiated supply of FBB to palm oil mills and dealers in the state.