Saturday, December 9

Association: EU’s deforestation regulations discriminatory against S’wak’s indigenous planters, violating human rights


A worker harvests oil palm fruits at a plantation. — Bernama photo

MIRI (March 7): The Sarawak Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association (Doppa) has accused the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) in the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) of being discriminatory against the Dayak community and other indigenous groups in the state as well as violating human rights.

In a statement, Doppa president Napolean Ningkos said the EU’s deforestation regulations and CSDDD have prevented the Dayak community and other indigenous groups in Sarawak from achieving socioeconomic progress.

“The CSDDD is making its way up the legislative chain in the EU and is expected to become legally binding for all companies that import goods into the EU market.

“The core purpose of CSDDD is to ensure that European imports do not cause or link to deforestation in countries that produce palm oil, cocoa, coffee, rubber, and other commodities,” he said.

Napolean said indigenous people have the right to develop their ancestral lands as approved by the state government under the Native Territorial Domain (NTD) Land Code of Sarawak.

“Achieving the force of law and proprietary interests under NTD gave Sarawak’s Dayaks the right to use our ancestral lands as we see fit.

“Doppa emphasises that if the restrictions are enforced unilaterally on Malaysia’s palm oil industry, smallholders of oil palm, particularly in Sarawak and Malaysia in general, will be adversely impacted. This is because understanding the production countries’ complete processes is crucial.”

He questioned how the EU will define deforestation if Dayak landowners clear some secondary forests in neglected family farms where some trees have regrown naturally after December 2020, to grow oil palm as a way to improve family incomes.

He shared his concerns on how the EU forms opinions on deforestation based on satellite data from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) where every oil palm tree is read as having replaced an old tree.

“This is typical of a neo-colonisation mentality with no ground truthing. There is no option to challenge their findings as we follow their definitions of deforestation and regulations.

“The indigenous Dayaks today are educated enough and informed that this old colonialist attitude to do what the master demands without question cannot be acceptable,” he stressed.

Napolean said the most outrageous facet of the EUDR is how the EU is looking to shift the burden of proof and its cost to indigenous Dayak farmers.

He pointed out the EU has imposed import taxes of tens of millions of Euros on palm oil products, and this should be used to fund smallholder’s sustainability agenda as a financial incentive to meet EU requirements.

If the EU and palm oil traders will not finance the certification of indigenous Dayak farmers to meet EU demands, he suggested that it is only justifiable that the EU accept Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification as proof of its sustainability and deforestation-free status.

He agreed with Deputy Prime Minister Dato Sri Fadillah Yusof, who is Minister of Plantation and Commodities, that the revised MSPO standards have addressed all the EU requirements on deforestation and other conditions such as child and forced labour.

“The EU has failed to completely engage all the stakeholders, including the smallholders in the producing countries when developing EUDR.

“Without complete stakeholder engagement in the producing countries, the EU will not be able to fully understand the adverse impacts and legal rights of stakeholders within the entire supply chain, particularly on the smallholders in terms of financial capability and technical support,” Napolean added.