Sime Darby Palm Oil Joint Venture with Natives disproves native customary land deprivation claims

Published: 18th August 2009
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Sime Darby Plantation Bhd recently inked a joint venture deal to invest an initial RM100 million to develop oil palm plantations on Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands in Julau, about 55 kilometers from the State capital.

Says Mohd Helmy Othman Basha, the plantation giant's Plantation Agency and Consultation head "the project would cover an area of about 20,000 hectares,"

"This is our first project in Sarawak and incidentally on the state's Native Customary Rights land.

"The project will be in a joint ventureship with landowners from 109 longhouses in three areas namely KJD/Lower Julau, Sungai Julau/Sungai Pitoh and Merurun/Meluan/Entabai," he said.

Representing the landowners at the joint venture agreement signing ceremony at a community hall here was the Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA). Present was State Land Development Minister Datuk Sri Dr James Jemut Masing.

This landmark joint venture shatters the claims of the Independent, a struggling UK tabloid that palm oil is, inter alia, causing massive deforestation, threatening the extinction of the orang utan and displacing native people. "Environmentalists" such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth (FOE) and the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) have also long trundled out the same half truths and equivocations that palm oil cultivation is indiscriminately depriving native people of their customary land.

Apart from Sime Darby's commendable efforts to help advance the socio-economic development of the native people, a recent ruling by Malaysia's highest court affirming the land rights of indigenous people exposes the lie that native people are being displaced with impunity.

A panel of three Federal Court judges unanimously ruled that tribes have customary ownership of land they have lived on for generations and state governments cannot take it from them without compensation, said See Chee How, a prominent land rights lawyer.

"It is a landmark decision," said See of Tuesday's ruling. "It's the first time the Federal Court has affirmed (such) a decision." See said he hoped this would bode well for more than 100 other land rights cases still pending in court.

Further, in an unprecedented move, the Malaysian government said it would grant ownership of farming land to about 20,000 indigenous families to improve their lives.

Additional evidence that The Independent and "environmentalists'" claims that palm oil cultivation is pursued at the expense of environmental and social factors are patently untrue is the confirmation by Sime Darby officials that despite the inking of the joint venture deal, preparatory work on the plantation would only begin after Sime Darby had done and submitted the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment report to the authority concerned.

In the joint venture, Sime Darby will hold 60 percent equity while the landowners 30 percent and LCDA 10 percent. Helmy said the target was for Sime Darby to develop around 50,000 hectares in Sarawak and another 50,000 hectares in Sabah.

In the view of the Palm Oil Truth Foundation, this development marks another triumph for truth and another embarrassment for the alarmists who would have you believe that palm oil, which is fast gaining traction as the worlds most popular AND cheapest cooking oil is responsible for a host of social and environmental problems! THE END


Palm Oil Truth Foundation (TRUTH Foundation) is an international non-governmental and not-for-profit organisation, without strings to the world of commerce and power. We are a people organisation, organised for the people and founded upon the principles of integrity and responsibility as a global citizen with the sole purpose of representing TRUTH to the global community about health, environmental and economic benefits of palm oil.

The TRUTH Foundation is an international network of social conscience and cooperation among peoples in industry, government, academia and the ordinary global consuming public, strengthening the forces devoted to respect, justice and equality for a more just and sustainable world and for global peace.

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