BRUNO MANSER FUND, BASEL / SWITZERLAND
1 April 2010
Borneo natives win class action suit against Malaysian oil palm giant
Controversial IOI group loses 12-year legal battle as Sarawak court declares its land leases "null and void"
MIRI, SARAWAK / MALAYSIA. More than twelve years after going to court, the Kayan native community of Long Teran Kanan on the Tinjar river in the Malaysian part of Borneo have won an important legal battle against the Sarawak state government and IOI Pelita, a subsidiary of the controversial Malaysian oil palm producer IOI.
In a judgement delivered earlier this week, the Miri High Court declared the land leases used by IOI "null and void" as they had been issued by the Sarawak state government in an illegal and unconstitutional way. According to the Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS), the court granted Long Teran Kanan headman Lah Anyie and his community compensation for the damage done by IOI to their land. The case had been handled by Miri-based lawyer Harrison Ngau.
Last December, a BBC News investigation had uncovered that vast tracts of former rainforest were being bulldozed in the disputed IOI operations area and had found "a scene of absolute devastation: a vast scar on the landscape". Local landowners had complained that their paddy fields and fruit trees had been destroyed by the company.
Court decision discredits Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
The Court decision also discredits the so-called Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) which, according to IOI, had found in a probe that the company "had acted responsibly for the management of land in Sarawak". IOI, a palm oil producer serving markets in 65 countries, is a leading RSPO member. Last month, a Friends of the Earths report presented evidence that IOI was responsible for large-scale illegal and unsustainable activities in the Indonesian part of Borneo.
The Bruno Manser Fund welcomes the Miri High Court decision and expects IOI to stop its jungle clearance activities and move out of the disputed lands in the Tinjar region with immediate effect.
Source: BRIMAS Media Release, 31 March 2010