World Rainforest Movement

Oil palm plantations in Sarawak: promotion and resistance

Sarawak will open up some 50,000 hectares of land every year for the next few years to be developed into oil-palm plantations due to rising demand for edible oil. Business will be developed and managed jointly by state development agencies and publicly-listed companies that have the experience and expertise in plantations. According to the government, the state is prepared to invest heavily in the palm-oil sector (see WRM Bulletin nr. 8) because the products would remain attractive despite the economic downturn, as can be seen from the increasing demand for edible oil worldwide.

Local communities strongly resist the installation of oil palm plantations in their lands, since they mean the destruction of the forest and the loss of their livelihood. For example, on December 29th 1997, Iban Headman Banggau and two other chiefs, on behalf of themselves and all the members of their longhouses, filed a suit to stop the activities of the oil palm plantation companies, Empresa Sdn. Bhd, Prana Sdn. Bhd, and Segarakam Sdn Bhd within their native customary land.

Source: Stephen Then, The Star, December 1997; BRI, 23/1/1998.