Murder in Malaysia's Rainforest
It is with sadness that we note the making of another rainforest martyr [ark] -- this time in Malaysia's rainforests -- as missing Penan indigenous leader Kelesau Naan, headman of the Penan settlement of Long Kerong in the Upper Baram region of Sarawak, was found dead [more/ark | more2/ark2]. Kelesau fought to defend the Penan's rainforest home and heritage [search] for years and had been leading the recent rounds of protests and blockading of encroaching loggers. It is widely suspected he was murdered as he checked his traps.
Kelesau is a principal plaintiff in a landrights claim against the Sarawak State Government and the Malaysian timber giant Samling [search] by four Penan communities filed in 1998 and waiting for trial since. The Sarawak state government contends that the Penan do not have rights to the forest where their ancestors have lived for millennia because they have traditionally been hunters instead of cultivators. The Penan are the last nomad hunter-gatherers in Asia, surviving by hunting and harvesting jungle plants.
After a long history of devastating the Penan and their rainforests on the Island of Borneo, Malaysian timber companies that first operated in Sarawak [search] have expanded their operations over past decades to rainforests around the world. They have been widely condemned for rainforest destruction [search], indigenous rights violations [search] and rampant corruption [search]. Malaysian rainforest logging companies are perhaps the greatest threat to rainforests and their biodiversity, cultures, ecosystems and carbon on the Planet.
We join with leading Penan campaigners Bruno Manser Fonds in calling for an immediate end to violations of the Penan's human rights and for a full independent investigation into Kelesau's death. Ecological Internet and its predecessors have been supporting the Penan's struggle for self-determination in their ancestral rainforests for nearly two decades, even after the struggle ceased to be a cause célèbre amongst the chattering class [most recent expired alert -- July, 2006]. Malaysian loggers are the worst of the worse, decimating rainforest and indigenous cultures worldwide, and now almost certainly implicated in murder in Sarawak.