One indigenous community in Sarawak felt they had no choice but to steal equipment from logging companies in a bid to stop the firms from harvesting timber from their native land.
This after efforts like police reports, petitions to the Sarawak chief minister and trying to gather information on the logging firms’ licences came to naught, Baram villager Ajeng Jok said.
"Because the government did not do anything, we felt there were no other means to stop the encroachment of our land, so we went and took their (the logging company's) equipment to stop them from logging," he said in a press conference in Petaling Jaya today.
Ajeng, a Kayan from Long Pilah, was arrested last July for the alleged offence.
They intended to return the equipment once the company agreed to leave their land, he added.
The Sarawak government has yet to take action to help defend the land rights of the Penan indigenous people of the state, local advocates say.
The Sarawak government has done little to protect indigenous land rights, despite promising to forestry enforcement and forest protection last year, Friends of the Earth Malaysia coordinator Jok Jau Evong said.
"Today, the Penan community of Sarawak by and large are still living without adequate land rights security and in substandard living conditions," he said in a press conference today.
After three decades of unsustainable logging, he said, oil palm plantations are quickly taking over.
Plantations require large tracts of land to be cleared, which will only make things worse for the Penan, he said.
The Penan community has highlighted their issues to the relevant authorities many times, yet still nothing has been done, lamented Along Hot, a Penan living in Long Daloh, Baram.
"We are very much dependent on forest reserves, because we are a hunting and gathering community. We don't practice farming.
"Our lives are connected to the forest, based on our traditions and culture," he said.
Kajan Ayie, a Penan living in Long Luteng, Baram, said they have been putting up blockades for the past two years.
"This is our last resort," he said, adding that they have sent memoranda to the government without any results.
Even the blockades have not changed anything, he admitted.
"It is time to highlight (this issue) again so that the people of Malaysia know what the Sarawak government has done so far for the Penan people," he said.
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