A group of Penan from the Upper Baram region of the East Malaysian State of Sarawak have reported Headman Kelesau Naan has vanished without a trace. He was last seen on October 23, 2007.
According to a media release by Bruno Manser Fonds, “The Penan leader, who was in his 70s, was last seen on 23 October 2007 in the vicinity of his village in one of Sarawak’s last intact rainforests. After two months, the Penan have decided to break the silence and have lodged a police report.”
The Penan fear he may have been murdered because he “is one of four plaintiffs and a key witness in a major Penan land rights claim that has been awaiting trial since 1998. He was one of the leading figures in the Upper Baram Penan communities’ struggle against the logging of their rainforests by the Malaysian Samling corporation.
Long Kerong is one of the few Penan communities that, by fierce resistance, have managed to keep the loggers at bay and preserve parts of their communal forests for hunting and the collection of forest products. In an interview conducted in 2004, Kelesau said the village’s defiance had proven its worth and he asked for the Sarawak state government to finally recognize the Penan’s land claim.
The use of violence cannot be excluded in the disappearance of headman Kelesau. Tensions between loggers and the Penan in the Upper Baram region have intensified in recent months, and the Sarawak government and the lumber companies have increased their pressure. In April and August 2007, Penan from the nearby village of Long Benali reported intimidations by local security forces that had been brought into the area to break up a logging road blockade.
In the 1990s, two Penan who were involved in disputes with the timber companies disappeared in a similar way. And the disappearance of Swiss rainforest advocate Bruno Manser in Sarawak in May of 2000 still has not been clarified.”
Courtesy of Survival International, If you would like to express your support for the Penan:
Please write letters to the Malaysian Timber Certification Council and Samling to raise your concerns about logging on the Penan’s land. You can also write to the Malaysian government – sample text and full contact details are available online.
1. Please write a polite letter to the chief executive of the Malaysian Timber Certification Council, asking him to revoke the certification of Samling’s Sela’an-Linau Forest Management Unit on Penan land:
Mr. Chew Lye Teng
Chief Executive Officer
Malaysian Timber Certification Council
19F, Level 19, Tower 1 Menara PGM
No. 8, Jalan Pudu Ulu, Cheras
56100 Kuala Lumpur
FAX: +60 3 9200 6008
2. Please write to Samling, asking them to recognise the Penan’s right to their land and to stop logging Sarawak’s last remaining primary forest:
Mr. Yaw Chee Ming
Chief Executive Officer
Wisma Samling Head Office
Lot 296, Jalan Temenggong Datuk Oyong Lawai Jau
98000 Miri, Sarawak
3. Finally, please write to the Chief Minister of Sarawak asking that the Penan’s right to their land be fully recognised and that no logging should take place on their land without their full, free and informed consent. Please also urge him not to allow the authorities or companies to use force against the Penan to gain access to their forest:
YAB Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud
Chief Minister of Sarawak
Office of the Chief Minister of Sarawak
22nd Floor, Wisma Bapa Malaysia Petra Jaya
Fax: + 60 82 442755
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