Penang (Malaysia) October 10, 2005 — Representatives from Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), the world’s largest grassroots environmental federation, sounded the alarming bells for the plight of the indigenous Sarawak Penans of Malaysia at the end of the FoEI annual general meeting here today.

10 October 2005
Friends of the Earth International

The Sarawak Penans live in extreme poverty with hardly much access to basic needs like proper housing, food, clean water, education and healthcare as well as identification documents.
Friends of the Earth International understands that for the past two decades the Malaysian Government frequently made various statements that financial assistance and facilities have been provided to the Penans on the pretext of solving their problems.
However, this assistance and facilities have yet or have failed to improve the lives or livelihood of the Penans.
Penans say that logging on their native customary lands and the lack of respect for their native customary rights are the main problems faced by them. Increased logging activities on the Penans’ native customary lands are causing them much problem.
Regrettably, the State Government of Sarawak had intensified the problems further by issuing licences over large areas for oil palm and tree plantation projects to private companies without giving due regard to the rights and culture of the Penans whose livelihood is greatly dependent on the forest and its resources.
Extensive and indiscriminate logging and looming threat of total clearance of forests for plantations in and around the Penan areas of settlements have unjustly deprived them of their rights of free access and usage of their lands and resources for their very sustenance.
Lack of healthcare is another major concern where the health of the Penans has deteriorated as a result of air and river pollution, exposure to heat as well as lack of nutritious food due to the depletion of forests because of logging activities. The lack of healthcare centres located near the Penan areas is another factor which contributes to why some of the Penans are of constantly poor health. Further, until today, a large number of Penans still do not possess identification documents.
Friends of the Earth International strongly urges the Malaysian government to act urgently on the demands put forth by the Penans, including these:
Recognise the ancestral and native customary rights on Penan lands and give special rights or privilege to the Penans to continue to obtain their source of food and produce from their forests. Logging must cease in these areas.
Revoke the provisional leases or licenses issued for large scale plantations which are on Penan customary lands
Expedite the approval of the Penans’ applications for Communal Forest Reserves

In Penang (Malaysia) Meena Raman, Friends of the Earth International Chair, Tel: +60-12-4300042 (cel) or email