NGOs urge European governments and industry not to accept Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme MTCC based on its disregard for indigenous peoples’ rights

01 December 2005

Basel / Oslo / Moreton-in-Marsh / Boulder:


We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations (NGOs), urge the European Union, European governments and the European timber industry not to accept the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCC) as a guarantee for sustainable or legal timber forest management because the MTCC does not respect indigenous peoples’ rights. We are particularly concerned about the recent certification of a Forest Management Unit in Sarawak, which openly disrespects the Penan people’s rights. The undersigning NGOs support the Penan communities’ call for an immediate withdrawal of this certificate. The Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) prides itself for guaranteeing the sustainable and legal origin of timber products marketed under its certification scheme. However, Malaysian NGOs have criticized MTCC’s disregard for indigenous peoples’ rights for years. The recent certification of Samling Plywood (Baramas) Sdn. Bhd. – both the first private company and the first Forest Management Unit in Sarawak to be certified – confirms MTCC’s disrespect for indigenous communities in an appalling way: one of the most disputed forest areas in Sarawak was certified without consulting all of the affected Penan communities. Large parts of the recently certified Samling Sela’an-Linau Forest Management Unit in the Ulu Baram area of Sarawak are in an area in which the Penan claim to have Native Customary Rights (NCR) and have submitted this to the Court in 1998. The case is still pending at the Sarawak High Court. By certifying the area, MTCC is in breach of its own certification standards according to which “long-term tenure and use rights to the land and forest resources shall be clearly defined, documented and legally established”. Samling first entered the area in the early 1990s, relying on police force to break the indigenous peoples’ resistance to logging. Ever since logging began, the Penan have been protesting against the destruction of their forests, on which they depend for hunting as well as for gathering wild sago, medicinal plants and rattan for their handicraft. In January 2005, more than 600 sedentary and semi-nomadic Penan living in the area protested against the certification, a protest confirmed by a meeting of the community representatives on 18 August 2005. In a letter of 25 January 2005, to MTCC, headman Bilong Oyau of Long Sait (Miri Division, Sarawak) wrote: “We strongly reject this certification (…) We have been living here in peace until the timber companies came to disturb our life and encroach into our forest.(…) Many of us have suffered due to the Samling logging operations: our rivers are polluted, our sacred sites damaged and our animals chased away by people who deprive us of our livelihood and culture.” While MTCC continues its worldwide public relations efforts, it ignores the Penans’ protest and refuses to withdraw the abusive certification of an area which is being logged against the will of the affected indigenous population. Acceptance or rejection of MTCC as a standard of legality is truly important and can be seen as a barometer of what standards European governments will establish for “acceptable” tropical timber. This is particularly relevant in the light of decisions being made in the FLEGT licensing process and timber procurement policies of EU member states. The NGO community disagrees with assessments made by EU member states, such as the UK and Denmark, and by the timber industry, such as the Dutch KeurhoutAssociation which have deemed MTCC to be a guarantee of legality. In terms of indigenous peoples’ rights, the certification of the Samling Sela’an – Linau concession in Sarawak is totally unacceptable and a further proof that MTCC’s “sustainability” and “legality” does not include the basic rights of the affected indigenous population. We urgently encourage the responsible ministries and the timber industry to reconsider the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme MTCC in the light of this new evidence.


Bruno Manser Fonds, Basel, Switzerland, Rainforest Foundation Norway, Oslo, Norway FERN, Moreton-in-Marsh, United Kingdom Amici della Terra (FoE, Italy), Rome, Italy Amis de la Terre (FoE, France), Montreuil, France Arbeitsgemeinschaft Regenwald und Artenschutz, Bielefeld, Germany, Born Free Foundation, Horsham, United Kingdom Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation Deutschland, Berlin, Germany Borneo Research Institute (BRIMAS), Miri , Malaysia, BUND (FoE Germany), Berlin, Germany Care for the Wild, Stuttgart, Germany Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights (FoE), Boroko, Papua New Guinea Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), Subang Jaya , Malaysia Climate Alliance / Klima-Bündnis / Alianza del Clima, Frankfurt, Germany Down to Earth: the International Campaign for Ecological Justice, United Kingdom EarthLink – The People & Nature Network, München, Germany Environmental Investigation Agency, London, United Kingdom Environmental Professionals, Singapore Forest Peoples Programme, Moreton-in-Marsh, United Kingdom Forum Ökologie und Papier, Germany Fundacion Cethus, Argentina Future in Our Hands, Oslo, Norway GEO schützt den Regenwald, Hamburg, Germany Gesellschaft für Bedrohte Völker Deutschland, Göttingen, Germany Gesellschaft für Bedrohte Völker Schweiz, Bern, Switzerland Gesellschaft für ökologische Forschung, München, Germany Global Response, Boulder, USA Global2000 (FoE Austria), Wien, Austria Greenpeace International, Amsterdam, The Netherlands GSM Denmark, Society for the Protection of Marine Mammals, Denmark GSM Germany, Society for the Protection of Marine Mammals, Quickborn, Germany Human Society of Canada, Canada Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (JOAS), Malaysia Institute for Development of Alternative Living (IDEAL), Sibun, Malaysia International Wildlife Coalition, Mississauga, Canada International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Zurich, Switzerland Land and People Information Sharing Society (LAPIS), Canada Luonto Liittoo – The Nature League, Annankatu, Finland Nature og Ungdom (Nature and Youth), Oslo, Norway Ocean Care, Wädenswil, Switzerland One Voice, Strasbourg / Nantes, France Our Home, Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine Partners of Community Organizations (PACOS TRUST), Kota Kinabalu , Malaysia Peuples des Forêts Primaires, Plomeur, France Pro Regenwald, München, Germany Pro Wildlife, München, Germany Rainforest Information Center, Lismore, Australia Reforest the Earth, Norfolk, United Kingdom Regenwald-Institut, Freiburg, Germany Rettet den Regenwald, Hamburg, Germany Robin des Bois, Paris, France Robin Wood, Bremen, Germany Romanian Alliance for the Protection of Animals, Bucharest, Romania Sarawak Campaign Committee, Japan Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA), Simunjan, Malaysia Sarawak Indigenous People’s Customary Land Rights Network (TAHABAS), Malaysia Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Stockholm, Sweden Tambopata Reserve Society, United Kingdom The Borneo Project, Berkeley, USA The Rainforest Foundation UK, London, United Kingdom Tropica Verde, Frankfurt am Main, Germany Urgewald, Sassenberg, Germany Watch Indonesia, Berlin, Germany Worldforests, Sutherland, Scotland

Additional information regarding MTCC and the Sela’an Linau case is available from:

Bruno Manser Fonds: Report on the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) certification of the Sela’an-Linau Forest Management Unit in the Ulu Baram area of Sarawak/Malaysia, 2005 ( Global Response: Greenpeace International: Missing links – Why the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) certificate doesn’t prove that MTCC timber is legal nor sustainable, Report, 2005 Greenpeace International, Fern, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and Rainforest Foundation Norway: Serious shortcomings in Malaysia’s certification scheme, background paper, February 2005 IDEAL: A Report on the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme, Report, 2004 JOANGOHutan: Malasian Indigenous Peoples Reject the MTCC Timber Certification Scheme, Indigenous Peoples’ Media Statement on the MTCC, 2004 Rengah Sarawak, the website of the indigenous peoples of Sarawak (

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