Sarawak activists take Mulu oil palm struggle to Europe

Indigenous representatives embark on a multi-city lobby tour to expose detrimental oil palm expansion in Malaysian Borneo

(London, UK) A delegation of indigenous representatives from Sarawak are currently in Europe to expose the Malaysian palm oil industry’s detrimental practices with the European Union and global institutions such as UNESCO and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The tour started on Saturday with a surprise protest in front of the Malaysian High Commission in London where a full-day promotional event for palm oil was being held as part of the industry’s Love My Palm Oil campaign. Later in the day, a group of Penan around Mulu community headman Ukau Lupung was able to meet with Malaysian Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok for a private conversation.

Penan leader Komeok Joe said he was satisfied with the meeting but was concerned that Sarawak authorities did not implement any of the promises made by the Malaysian government overseas. Penan and Berawan/Tering activists are currently fighting against a major expansion of oil palm plantations near the Gunung Mulu National Park, Sarawak’s only UNESCO World Heritage site.

The awareness raising tour will lead the Sarawak delegation to Brussels on Tuesday where European NGOs are planning to hand over a petition with over 150,000 signatures in support of the Mulu communities to the Malaysian Embassy. Further talks are scheduled with EU officials as well as with a French MP and UNESCO on Thursday in Paris.

Finally, the delegation will travel to Switzerland where they will meet with IUCN in Gland (Geneva). The tour will end next week with a courtesy call to the Malaysian Embassy in Berne, Switzerland, where a group of Penan will present their community maps to the Ambassador.

The delegation comprises representatives of the Penan, Iban, Berawan/Tering and Kelabit indigenous communities. The tour has been organized and is being funded by the Bruno Manser Fonds, a Swiss NGO promoting forest conservation and the rights of indigenous peoples.