Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When the hunter becomes the hunted

Ka ka ka ka.....
Mariam Mokhtar from London
Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Penan are subject to intimidation, violence and exploitation. They struggle to provide for themselves. Their womenfolk and young girls have been sexually abused and raped. They feel hunted, just like the game they seek in the forests of Borneo.

On Tuesday, Taib Mahmud, Chief Minister of Sarawak, had a dose of his own medicine when he had to escape the clutches of demonstrators in front of the Said Business School, at the University of Oxford. He was there to address the “Inaugural Oxford Global Islamic Branding and Marketing Forum”. The protesters held placards reading ‘Penan tribe say NO to logging’ and ‘Malaysia: Stop destroying the Penan tribe’.

At the opening session, Taib’s address was “The Role of Muslim Nations in Rebuilding Today’s Global Economy”. This was followed by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Nor Mohamed Yakcop's, address “The View from Muslim Southeast Asia.

Little did Taib guess that he would have people demonstrating about the Penans and the destruction of the rainforest. The grand welcome he is used to, fizzled into nothing. His luxury car, carried a decoy to fool a group of protestors at the side entrance. Taib was probably transported in an embassy van, with diplomatic number plates and spirited via the kitchen, into the building.

A man who claimed he was in charge of security and who refused to give his name and the company he worked for, said, “We don’t care what the principal wants, we bundle him in, even if he does not like it.” He was suggesting that Taib may have probably wanted to make a grand entrance, but was prevented from doing so by the security detail.

Inside the conference centre, protesters were barred from entering the foyer to present their list of questions to Taib. A scheduled press conference at 12.30 p.m. just before the special speakers’ lunch, was cancelled possibly because of the risk of having to answer awkward questions.

A demonstrator who entered the foyer tried to take a photo of Taib but was immediately surrounded and forcibly ejected from the premises. She successfully took photos of him through the glass but this enraged members of Taib’s delegation who then lowered the blinds or placed screens against the glass-fronted building, to prevent Taib from being photographed.

Taib seemed like a wounded animal as he walked with Nor Mohamed Yakcop, who looked visibly angry that the demonstrators had hijacked Taib’s big day in front of the delegates who had paid £1,000 (RM 5,100) each to attend this Forum.

Evidently, Taib is surrounded by ‘yes’ men who cocoon him from dissenting views of the real world. He must have found it galling that thousands of miles away from the safe confines of his tropical riverside mansion, the Penan problem and the destruction of the forests would be haunting him in this centre of learning.

Instead of being able to sell Sarawak to the British, Taib has to justify his actions to the chairman of the British parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group for Tribal peoples, MP Martin Horwood. The British MP has written to him about the serious allegations of the Penan. Instead of a warm welcome, Taib received a cold reception from the demonstrators and a letter from the MP whilst his host, will receive letters of protest and condemnation.

Taib may wish to reflect how it is to feel rejected, just like the Penans are rejected by their own leaders who continually thwart their attempts at seeking justice. For several years the Penan and other indigenous people have tried to seek peaceful methods to maintain their way of life. They have been harassed because they stood in Taib’s way and his get-rich schemes.

The large delegation accompanying Taib seemed bemused by the demonstrators. What they are used to is a violent reaction from the Malaysian police who are intolerant of protests, even peaceful ones.

One lady who was part of Taib’s delegation said that a child who held up a banner at yesterday’s demonstration was being subjected to “child labour.” Is she aware that Penan girls are being raped and the police in Malaysia are slow to act?

This demonstration has rattled Taib. If this seminar had been arranged during term-time, Taib would have been assured of a larger, more vocal and highly organised group. He is lucky. The police said the demonstrators were ‘well-behaved’ but the behaviour of members of Taib’s delegation was aggressive, in comparison.

Nevertheless, several questions remain unanswered.

Why did Oxford University embrace Taib with open arms knowing that his reputation is tarnished at home and abroad?

Why are his crimes - corruption, plundered wealth, destruction of the forests and land, not highlighted abroad? None of the UK national newspapers (UK) covered this event. Only the local Oxford paper attended.

How is it that the Kagame government or even the Mugabe regime can get centre-stage in the foreign news section of the UK national newspapers? Is Malaysian news insignificant? Or have Sarawakians more serious lobbying to do?

A few of the demonstrators were contemplating making a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) report against Taib. This apparently was how the British arms dealer BAE systems was prosecuted in the Saudi arms bribery scandal.

Pressure from the international community can only be effected by Malaysians when they bring it to the attention of the rest of the world. Naturally, Taib does not want to be in the news for the wrong reasons, as he has a very cushy number.

* The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysian Mirror and/or its associates.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wildlife trade haven, uninterrupted

Tue, 27 Jul 2010
By Hilary Chiew

COMMENT Tiger in A’Famosa Resort exploited for commercial gain. Two women from Madagascar arrested at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) for smuggling more than 400 pieces of rare species from the island state off mainland Africa. An apparent criminal syndicate was busted with not only stolen cars but scores of protected birds and other mammals in a warehouse in the capital city.

These are very likely, pardon the cliché, the tip of the iceberg of the extent of wildlife abuse and trafficking in this country that constantly boasts of being one of the 12 mega biodiversity centres in the world.

And they all have one thing in common – they were not exposed by the Department of Wildlife and National Park (Perhilitan).

The exploit of A’Famosa was filmed by a young girl who was disgusted with the state of abuse the majestic cat was subjected to in a profit-driven outlet capitalising on the draw of the animal in the lunar calendar year of the tiger, no less.

The KLIA seizure was carried out by the Customs Department while the “mini zoo” discovery was purely accidental and opportunistic, piggy-backing on a police raid.

Sure, Perhilitan has some successful enforcement cases that it announced now and then through press conferences. And in no way am I belittling the efforts of its Wildlife Crime Unit.

However, seizure is one thing and bringing the matter to justice is another. Unfortunately, the latter is sorely lacking.

Tiger exploitation

Take the case of A’Famosa. Perhilitan said it is awaiting a statement from the videographer or whoever that posted the clip on popular video-sharing site YouTube before handing the investigation paper to the Attorney-General's Chambers.

Sound fair enough. Let’s just hope that it won’t be conveniently forgotten once the hype is gone.

Prior to the outcry generated by this YouTube posting that culminated in a protest outside the resort supported by local showbiz celebrities Rina Omar and Bernie Chan in late May, the same resort had also been criticised for capitalising on the species which is the animal in the Chinese zodiac for the 2010 lunar new year.

The YouTube video was evidence of such activities during the Chinese New Year judging from the background music.

At the same time, Saleng Zoo had also jumped on the bandwagon of the “roaring business”. It even ran a “tiger-for-loan” scheme for corporation or just anyone who is willing to pay a few thousands ringgit to temporarily “own” a cub for a few hours to do whatever with it as they pleased.

The zoo near Kulai, Johor, has been involved in a controversial tiger-breeding programme where the mortality rate of tiger cubs was high as well as being implicated in supplying cubs to other aspiring zoos and individual collectors; an activity that is not covered by its Special Permit as far as public knowledge is concerned.

But the zoo is unperturbed – it never fails to publicise the birth of its cubs, with an unabashed business sense. Somehow the births are timed perfectly for some festive celebration around the corner. And unsuspecting newspapers duly provide coverage, throwing in the patriotic act of boosting tourism for the state.

Permit to abuse

The issue begged a fundamental question – why are entities like A’Famosa, Saleng Zoo and Danga Bay Petting Zoo which are devoid of any conservation purposes allowed to keep totally protected animals like tigers?

In twisted logic fashion, these entities justified their utilisation of the animals for photography sessions as a financial source for feeding and upkeep of the animals.

Totally protected species like tigers, elephants and orangutans can only be kept with a document called Special Permit issued by Perhilitan. This document generally lasts for a year and could be suspended if conditions had been contravened by its holder. And this document is only approved by the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment upon favourable advice by Perhilitan.

This permit generally allowed its holder to import, export, confine and breed the animals. In the case of zoo operators, they are allowed to display but it is deafeningly silent on “extra” activities like being forced to participate in photo-prop or providing rides.

Technically-speaking, the A-G's Chambers may not be able to find any faults with these operators unless the charge is centred on cruelty to wildlife as provided for in the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972.

Section 92 (1) c reads: houses, confines or breeds any wild animal or wild bird in such a manner so as to cause it unnecessary pain or suffering including the housing, confining or breeding of any wild animal or wild bird in any cage, enclosure or hut which is not suitable for or conducive to the comfort or health of the wild animal or wild bird.

(The new law – Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 which was passed in the recent parliamentary session – is yet to come into force, hence does not apply to these cases.)

Given that complaints of animal cruelty against these three private outfits are not new, it is highly irresponsible of Perhilitan in continuing to renew the permits, not to mention that there were no suspensions.

In fact, the rather telling revelation from Saleng Zoo over the public uproar on tiger for photography session, was that it was ordered by Perhilitan to stop such activities “until further notice”.

According to Perhilitan’s published guidelines on zoo operation, it is desirable that public and private zoos are members of Mazpa (The Malaysian Zoological Park Association), which tried to promote good practices of animal-keeping entities. Saleng Zoo is not – yet it continues to exist in an apparent lawless situation.

A’Famosa has been implicated in orangutan smuggling in 2005. After a long investigation, mainly on DNA verification of species and not on the smuggling racket, a total of seven animals were repatriated to Sumatra.

A salient feature in this episode was the presence of a Special Permit issued by Perhilitan that explicitly enabled A’Famosa to import and hold orangutans.

The penalty – none, safe for the initial RM1,000 compound when the offence was first detected in 2000 by the department itself. However, Perhilitan as the management authority of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species did not seize and repatriate the animals until the matter was exposed by the media.

Smuggling haven

As for Perhilitan’s capability of solving trans-boundary smuggling like the hundreds of radiated tortoises from Madagascar or the earlier spate of Indian star tortoises, the results are appalling.

Save for some seizures, we hear nothing about the fate of the human couriers. Were they ever charged? What kind of information did the investigation yield?

Why were the two women not “allowed” to complete their mission in a “control delivery” fashion so that they could lead the enforcers to the ultimate smuggler? It’s baffling that after so many cases involving the syndicate adopting similar modus operandi, Perhilitan failed to institute such a simple Standard Operating Procedure. Training had been provided to agencies like Customs that are on the frontline of the war against wildlife trafficking by Perhilitan and the Asean-Wildlife Enforcement Network (Asean-WEN).

Malaysia has been a partner of the Aseanf-WEN since its launch in December 2005. The main task of the largest network of its kind is to strengthen enforcement through intelligence-sharing and to destroy the syndicate behind this crime against biodiversity and our shared natural heritage.

However, except for possibly some small fries (that also we are unsure) that are compounded or fined a few thousand ringgits at most, the syndicate bosses continue laughing to the bank.

Early this year, Malaysia's notorious image as a wildlife transit hub was splashed across the reputable National Geographic magazine. The shaming didn’t seem to bother the government much and hence possibly explain why neither the police nor the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (where reports had been filed by concerned animal rights groups) bothered to act.

Wildlife conservationists had long lamented that flora and fauna are last on the list of politicians and decision-makers as they don’t have a voice. Perhaps if only those animals have a right to vote every five years will the government sit up and listen.

While the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment claimed that a task force was set up to investigate the matter, it side-stepped the serious allegation of corruption within the highest order of Perhilitan. It is satisfied with the offer by the high-ranking officer, who was implicated with wildlife trader Penang-based Anson Wong in illegal wildlife trade, to institute legal redress in her personal capacity.

That approach is a bit odd and we are still waiting for the officer to follow through with her promise. And along with that, at stake is the integrity of Perhilitan, the ministry and the Malaysian government.

Nevertheless, following numerous expose on the abuse of the Special Permit, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Douglas Uggah had ordered that all applications are to be deliberated at the ministry level.

However, the ability of the ministry is doubted. Often, matters regarding wildlife are referred to Perhilitan by virtue that it is supposed to be the expert, custodian of wildlife management and no less enforcer of the law.

Loopholes remain

Finally, after 13 years, a new legislation governing wildlife was passed by Parliament early this month.

Some quarters celebrated. They were largely pleased that the penalty for several types of offences, particularly the one dealing with poaching and illegal trading, had been increased, and, therefore, it is assumed that these would have the desired deterrent effect.

The public is relieved and hopes to see the new law provide the promised bites.

Yet, if it has taken this long, one would expect a major overhaul to plug all the loopholes. It is disheartening to see that weaknesses in the old law are being repeated in the new law.

If you want to keep totally protected animals, you can still apply for a Special Permit. If you want to operate a zoo with highly endangered species, just apply too.

If in 1972, totally protected animals are still plentiful, in 2010 and beyond, these species are becoming extinct.

So, what’s the justification for importing, exporting, keeping and breeding these animals bearing in mind that all these activities are incentives for wildlife trafficking? Are we indirectly encouraging poaching?

Some quarters would like to see the passing of the bill as a breakthrough but the provision for Special Permit that is retained is suffice to burst the happy bubbles.

The battle against wildlife trafficking in Malaysia is not over; it just got tougher because by the next round of amendment, there is probably no totally protected species to defend.

Hilary Chiew is a socio-environmental researcher and freelance writer based in Kuala Lumpur.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sea levels rising in the peninsula, says Kurup

July 23, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR: Sea levels off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia will rise by 10cm to 13cm in the next 100 years, said Natural Resources and Environment Deputy Minister Tan Sri Joseph Kurup.

He added that sea levels on the west coast of Pulau Langkawi would rise by 10cm while at Tanjung Piai, Johor, it is expected to increase by 13cm.

Kurup said the findings were revealed in a national coastal vulnerability index study conducted by the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) in 2006.

Checks revealed that 288.4km or 6% of the peninsula’s 4,809km-long coast is being eroded by sea water, he told Senator Mohd Khalid Ahmad.

The erosion is grouped under Category One, which states that economic activities and property are under threat and immediate action must be taken to rectify the problem, he said.

Kurup added that the ministry was implementing short-term and long-term measures in response to the problem of coastal erosion.

“Short-term measures include carrying out engineering works and construction of erosion control structures.

“So far, 140km of affected coastline have been rehabilitated. Among the areas rehabilitated are Kemaman beach (Terengganu), Kuala Sala Kecil and Kampung Kangkung, Yan (Kedah) and the Miri - Kuala Baram coastline in Sarawak,” added Kurup.

He said in the long-term, DID has implemented an integrated shoreline management plan to prevent shoreline erosion from worsening.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rape of Lenggong forest reserve in Perak

(“We also found a demolished hut. They must have got wind of our arrival and fled the place,” said the officer. He also pointed out that the department had received tip-offs about the illegal operations inside the forest earlier this year and had been conducting investigations at the sites.)

Talking KOK. Receiving tip-offs since earlier this year and what have they done to stop the raping? I have personally tried to enter such forest reserve in Perak and was stopped from going in by the Forestry at the entrance. So it is not easy to enter timber-rich forest reserve unless they want you to. So tell me, do you think it is easy to bring big big trucks into the forest and get away with it? Don't you smell rats and corruptions? And for this case, with the present of the MACC, they have to be seen to do some work.

Thursday July 15, 2010 MYT 5:23:00 PM

GERIK: The Forestry Department is alarmed over the rape of a forest reserve in Lenggong where trees have been illegally felled for their quality timber worth about half a million ringgit.

The activity, deep in the Bintang Hijau Forest Reserve, is believed to have gone on for the past six months.

A National Forestry Department spokesman said it found eight illegally logged spots during a joint operation with the state Forestry Department and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission on Thursday.

“We found numerous logs sawn from cengal, meranti, merbau and balau trees,” said the forestry officer.

He added that cengal was worth about RM8,000 per tonne, while the merbau and meranti could fetch up to RM4,000 per tonne.

The investigation team also noticed that illegal loggers had started to process timber in the area where the trees were felled.

“It is faster to make wood planks straight away after felling the trees. This also makes for easier transportation of the wood out from the forest using a small truck,” he added.

The officer noted that sawn timber was sometimes left in the forest to be transported out at other times.

On the operation, he said the investigation team did not catch any suspects but seized a bulldozer, a truck, sawn timber and other equipment abandoned in the forest.

“We also found a demolished hut. They must have got wind of our arrival and fled the place,” said the officer.

He also pointed out that the department had received tip-offs about the illegal operations inside the forest earlier this year and had been conducting investigations at the sites.

He said three individuals were believed to be behind the illegal activity.

Those found guilty of illegal logging can be fined a maximum RM500,000, and jailed up to 20 years under Section 15 of the National Forestry Act 1984.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Canada Plays God

Depleted fish population so kill the seals? The root problem is actually over population! Surprising to see a developed country like Canada implementing a primitive plan....or is it playing God? Shame to you, Canada!!
Read story below....
Canada is on the verge of implementing a gruesome plan to slaughter beautiful grey seals.

A proposal calls for killing more than 220,000 seals on Sable Island. The cull and disposal program would run at birthing time each year for five years.

Take action to stop this plan and prevent 220,000 Sable Island seals from being killed »

The proposal itself is horrific. Baby seals would be shot, their carcasses would then be loaded onto dump trucks and incinerated.

Why is the Canadian government even considering this plan? The seals are being blamed for depleted fish populations - even though scientists have pointed the finger at commercial over-fishing, not wild seals.

Stop the Sable Island Seal Slaughter

A recent proposal prepared for the Government of Canada would see 220,000 grey seals killed and incinerated in their protected Sable Island nursery.

The proposal reads like a horror novel:
-- Hunters would storm the beaches at dawn and begin slaughtering baby seals by shooting them in the head with prohibited silencer-equipped rifles
-- The slaughtered seals would then be grabbed by a loader machine specially modified to carry the carcasses.
-- They'd be loaded onto dump trucks to be transported to portable incinerators where they'd be burned.
-- Each truck would be filled in 10 minutes, and would run 24/7 and for 25 days straight.

To reach the proposed number of 220,000 seals, the cull and disposal program would run at birthing time each year for about five years and cost Canadian taxpayers an estimated $35 million.

Please urge the Canadian government to categorically reject this outrageous proposal.

Sign our petition today to ensure that Sable Island's grey seal population is spared this sickening slaughter, and that the island remains a protected habitat for seals.

Polystyrene ban in Penang

July 12, 2010

GEORGE TOWN: Penang will enforce a ban on polystyrene starting Jan 1 next year.

The ban will cover all food premises and temporary hawking sites owned by local councils on the island and mainland, state Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said.

“Come Jan 1, hawkers who do not adhere to the ruling will have their licences revoked. Starting Aug 1, all monthly and yearly licence application forms will have the clause stipulating the ban on polystyrene.

“Revocation is the last resort. We will try our best to advice and educate them first,” he told reporters after launching the “Cleaner Greener Penang” programme at Sunshine Farlim yesterday.

He said state Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh was looking at whether alternatives to polystyrene could be sourced at a cheaper price.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Firm builds habitat links for wildlife

Borneo Post
July 10, 2010

KOTA KINABALU: Wildlife footprints were recently spotted on soil covered culvert crossings that were built by an oil palm plantation at Kinabatangan, an ecologically sensitive area.Malbumi Group of Companies constructed nine concrete culvert crossings to connect drains and rivers within Lot 1 of the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary to enable wildlife to cross from one side of the sanctuary to another.

We felt sorry for disturbing their natural habitat when we proceeded with our plantations. Thus, to clear our conscience and to make it positive, we now hope to do our best in taking good care of them,” said Edward Ang, the managing director of Malbumi Group of Companies.

He said when Malbumi first started clearing land in 1995 he noticed that there were wildlife like orang-utans, proboscis monkeys and Borneo pygmy elephants on its land.

According to him, the company has helped in freeing a herd of 15 to 20 elephants trapped in a pool.

“With supervision from the wildlife authority, we managed to free the elephants using heavy machinery like bulldozers and excavators,” he said.

“Malaysia has been a major palm oil producer over the years and this is because we are situated in an environment that permits us to do so. We must continuously do our best to protect the environment so that we can continue to produce the best palm oil efficiently,” Ang said.

Malbumi has been studying the WWF-Malaysia “Kinabatangan–Corridor of Life” project to learn how to best manage wildlife found within and close to its estates.

The estates that cover about 5,200 hectares (13,000 acres) is situated near Sukau and Sungai Tenegang which are adjacent to Lot 1 of the wildlife sanctuary, and is also close to Lokan that lies next to the Segaliud Lokan forest reserve.

Ang said the palm oil industry has reaped good harvest in recent years, and that it would be good if the planters along the Kinabatangan River to donate a small portion of their revenue to help the Sabah Wildlife Department and NGOs like WWF-Malaysia to sustain the viability of wildlife populations in the country.

“Malbumi is also considering becoming a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) once it ventures into palm oil mills with its partners,” said Ang.

A workshop on RSPO organised recently in Sandakan by WWF-Malaysia and the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) was informative.

Ang said that the workshop gave him and his team better insight on how to best set higher standards in tackling environmental issues and ways to improve protection of wildlife.

When asked what advice he had for other palm oil companies in Kinabatangan, he said, “Only humans have the power and ability to ensure the future of wildlife, so we need to start making that difference.”

Malbumi is also supporting a reforestation programme adjacent to its plantation, and has to date supplied and planted 2,000 native forest tree seedlings at the riparian areas. The company has spent RM200,000 on its wildlife conservation programme, including funds used to purchase machinery and materials to help the Sabah Wildlife Department and non-governmental organisations create a more sustainable environment for the wildlife located in these areas.

Ang concluded by saying, “In today’s business world, it’s important to take care of the environment. Businesses and the environment are very similar to the story of the goose laying the golden egg. The “goose” is the environment, and if it is not cared for, we will one day lose our businesses, or “golden eggs”.

Friday, July 09, 2010

United Borneo natives demand justice and respect

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 10:46
By Roselind Jarrow

BAU: The Malaysian and Indonesian governments have been urged to ‘review all existing laws and regulations’ that undermine rights of Borneo’s indigenous peoples.

They were also asked to respect and recognise their rights to ensure the ‘full and effective participation’ of indigenous peoples in the respective countries' decision making process.

These were among the resolutions in the inaugural Krokong Declaration following a three-day Borneo Forests Conference attended by representatives from Sabah, Sarawak, West and East Kalimantan.

The conference was jointly organised by the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association, Borneo Resource Institute Malaysia, Building Initiative in Indigenous Heritage, Pascos Trust, Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara, Indonesia, and Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia.

The Krokong Declaration remindedto the two governments, who endorsed and adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), of their obligation to uphold the rights of the indigenous peoples.

It calls on the these two governments to:

Ensure the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in all development policies, plans, assessments and implementation related to indigenous peoples subject to our Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

Impose a moratorium on development projects that have been identified to be implemented and planned in our territories that have violated our rights and do not have our FPIC.

Review all existing laws and regulations that undermine our rights as indigenous peoples.

Urge the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia to stop and investigate all forms of violence against our people, arising from all the common issues below.
What's the Krokong Declaration says:

“We, the indigenous peoples of Borneo, have very distinct cultures and relations to our land, territories and resources.

“We strive to maintain these distinct values through our Adat and norms that have been passed down to us from our ancestors for generations.

“We have lived and nurtured our traditional knowledge, innovations and practices since time immemorial, making us the true custodians of our land, territories and resources.

“We, the indigenous peoples of Borneo have suffered social injustices resulting from the imposition of development aggression on our lands, territories and resources. All these have been done without our free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

“We have not been included in the decision making processes, thus we continue to be marginalised and discriminated regardless of our basic human and customary rights to land, territories and resources, as stated in state, national and international laws.

“We call upon our governments, Malaysia and Indonesia, who adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to fully uphold the rights contained in the declaration.

“We, the indigenous peoples of Borneo declare our solidarity and unity in declaring the Krokong Declaration to be respected and recognised towards its implementation in Malaysia and Indonesia.

“We are further united by the common threats that face us; mega dam projects, mining and other extractive industries, oil palm plantations, deforestation and forest degradation, and climate change on our island of Borneo. We recognise that these threats are faced by indigenous peoples in Malaysia and Indonesia as well as around the world.

“In Borneo, the development of mega dams has displaced and resulted in involuntary forced resettlement of indigenous peoples, causing losses of our customary land and source of livelihood, identity and culture.

“It will also contribute to climate change because of the emission of methane and carbon dioxide from forest clearing and from flooding of reservoir. Water-borne diseases like Malaria and Chikungunya happen more often in areas that surrounds the dam.

“The expansion of oil palm plantations is escalating in alarming and unprecedented proportions that destroy our customary land, territories and resources. This trend brings grave concern to us because it has adversely affected our social culture and livelihoods and unjustly deprived us of the very source of sustenance.

“Additionally, extractive industries such as mining and logging continue to encroach into our ancestral domains which have resulted in land and environmental quality degradation that further impoverish our people. All the extractive industries have contributed to climate change by emitting green house gases (GHGs).

“We are also adversely affected by climate change. Our rivers and land are drying, frequent occurrences of flash floods, unpredictable weather patterns and seasons that threaten our food security.

“Climate change mitigation schemes such as REDD can create potential threats to the ownership of our forests and our rights.

“All of the common issues above have increased the violation of our human rights in the form of intimidation, wrongful detention, criminalisation, killings, deployment of gangsters and the use of para-military force against Indigenous Peoples.

“Likewise, our traditional values, institutions, governance system and knowledge as well as cultural heritage are being eroded as a result of these,” the declaration says.
It also pledges that they work together as one people and one Borneo to respond to these threats in a united and systematic manner that will ensure the survival and dignity of the indigenous peoples.

“We therefore, will work for the establishment of the Borneo Indigenous Peoples Alliance (BIPA) as the expression of our united stand for life and dignity.”
The Krokong Declaration will be submitted to Malaysia and Indonesia as well as to the state and provisional governments. A copy will also be handed to the United Nations.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Subsidising destruction

Tue, 06 Jul 2010
By Hilary Chiew

COMMENT Last week I raised the issue about perverse incentives in the form of government subsidies to the power sector. This absurd policy direction is not unique to Malaysia though.

It is being played out amply in the battle against climate change, arguably humanity’s biggest threat.

In the global fight against rising earth temperature, the cap and trade system was introduced into the legally-binding emission reduction agreement called Kyoto Protocol in an effort to reduce the release of global warming greenhouse gases (GHG) from economic activities.

(Under the first phase of the protocol, which takes effect from 2008 to 2012, industrialised economies [collectively referred to as Annex I members] are obliged to cut their emission by 5% from the 1990 baseline year. Currently, the United Nations climate talks is supposed to agree on the emission targets by Annex I parties for the second phase in continuing the protocol as mandated by the main treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC].)

It is essentially a compromise between developed and developing countries which is typical of international treaty negotiation. The former which is historically responsible for the climate crisis needed in a way, some tangible incentives to convince its key emitters such as power generators to agree to emission reduction strategies. The latter conceded that without some sweetener, there will be no deal.

What we get was the built-in flexible mechanism called Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) that lessens the pain of developed countries’ polluting industries to cap their emission in contributing to the overall reduction commitment of industrialised nations.

The paramount objective of CDM allows industrialised countries to invest in emission reduction wherever it is cheapest globally. At the heart of CDM is “offsets” where emitters in rich countries achieved compliance by outsourcing part of their reduction targets outside their sector (for example, power generation) and usually in a developing country.

Along the way, developing countries are supposed to obtain technologies that help them to avoid emitting carbon while they continue developing their economies, eradicate poverty and lead their countries towards the desired developed status, albeit, through a low-carbon development model

These technologies and projects are paid with money that comes from the trading of carbon credits generated from the avoided emissions. These credits called Certified Emission Reductions (CER) are verified by a third party and approved by the CDM executive board. Each unit of CER is equivalent to one metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent. Hence, the creation of a new commodity -- carbon.

Friends of the Earth International, a grassroots-based environmental advocacy group, defines the commodity as the right to emit carbon and then governments, which are responsible to resolve the climate crisis, limit the availability of this right in order to create scarcity and therefore a market for it.

Free to emit

How does this internationally-agreed involuntary exchange of “goods” work at the national level?

As a group, the European Union (EU) was the first off the block in introducing carbon trading into its collective emission reduction programme. It did so by setting mandatory cap on different sectors of its EU-wide economy and active participation in the UNFCCC’s CDM mandatory offset scheme. It launched the EU-Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) in 2005 when the Kyoto Protocol was enforced.

The EU-ETS has emerged as the world’s largest carbon trading scheme. The global carbon market has roughly doubled in size every year since 2005 with an estimated worth of US$63 billion in 2008.

(Carbon emission trading is less developed in the United States largely because the country has not signed up to the Kyoto Protocol and has no obligation to reduce its emission despite being responsible for persuading the UNFCCC to adopt the cap and trade model as a policy tool when the pact was agreed in 1997.)

The EU-ETS covers approximately 11,500 power stations, factories and refineries in 30 countries which include the 27 EU members states, plus Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. Together, these sectors account for almost half of the EU’s GHG emissions but excluding direct emission from road transport, aviation, shipping, agriculture and forestry.

In Europe, polluting industries such as power generation from coal, are given permit for an allocated allowance of emissions which they are not allowed to exceed. The permits are distributed to the emitters covered by the scheme either at a cost – through auctioning – or for free.

Yes, for free and at the expense of taxpayers' money, power consumers and the health of the climate.

Under Phase One of the EU-ETS which ends in 2007, polluting industries were allocated free permits and allowed to sell any surplus to those who exceeded their ceilings.

Critics said as allocation of these allowances is based on historical emissions, it has the negative effect of favouring less efficient facilities. In other words, the largest allocations have gone to what have historically been the worst polluters.

Subsequently, it was discovered that the polluters had also inflated their reduction baseline. Industries had been found to over-claim their emission levels and when they stayed below their limits, they profited by selling their excess allowances to others.

As a result, the power sector was enjoying windfall profits of some 20 billion euro (RM81 billion) a year in the EU-ETS first phase. The costs of meeting emission target were translated into higher utilities prices to consumers, creating public uproar particularly in Netherlands and Germany.

Acknowledging the mistake, ceilings for emission under Phase Two which runs from 2008 to 2012, have been reduced with a small percentage to be auctioned but yet a vast majority will still be handed free.

The European Commission was contemplating an average of 60% of permits to be auctioned from 2013 (the third phase), rising to 100% in 2020.

However, its reform plan was met with fierce criticism from the business communities. Oil majors like Shell and BP were lobbying to have oil refineries excluded from the sectors that will have to buy emissions permits at auction.

Needless to say, economic interests trumped climate ambition as illustrated in EU climate change packages that are rolled out in the last few years from Brussels, and we continue to see an EU that is losing its climate leadership position.

Pioneer status

Another form of perverse incentive is in the many developing countries race to outdo each other in attracting foreign investments.

They compete to offer tax exemption pioneer status to any investments with little thoughts given to the adverse impact from such investments.

I am reminded of the copper mine venture in Mamut, Sabah. The country’s first open-cast mine began churning out copper ore in 1975. Throughout its peak production years, and up until 1994, the annual production of copper concentrate was 100,000 tonnes or 25,000 pure copper. Over its lifespan, the mine earned an export revenue of about RM3.4 billion.

Notwithstanding accidents while the mine was in operation including a burst tailing pipeline that contaminated 800ha of rice fields and the dust pollution from the tailing dam, residents continue to suffer from the lack of clean water from the polluted rivers and risk of diseases as they come into contact with the contaminated water and air.

The attractiveness of country like Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia extends beyond tax-exemption. Many developed countries were exporting their polluting industries to the developing world where environmental legislations either do not exist or are extremely lenient.

Such was the case of Mamut where the Japanese-Malaysia joint venture exploited the lax environmental regulation.

A new federal law that provides for the rehabilitation of mining land did not come into effect until 1994 and was only adopted by Sabah in 1999 after the closure of the mine, negating any responsibilities of the polluters (a succession of them as the venture was sold and resold).

Have we learnt from this mistake? Just look around you for the so-called “pioneering” development projects and you will be able to answer that question.

Hilary Chiew is a socio-environmental researcher and freelance writer based in Kuala Lumpur.