A company granted two palm oil concessions located in the immediate vicinity of the Gunung Mulu National Park has been served with a legal challenge seeking to end its logging activities.
Swiss-based NGO Bruno Manser Fonds said in a statement that 14 plaintiffs representing 10 indigenous Penan and Berawan villages in Sarawak filed the lawsuit calling for the immediate nullification of two palm oil concessions against Radiant Lagoon on Tuesday at the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak in Miri.
Gunung Mulu National Park is recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site, and the two palm oil concessions currently cover an area of approximately 4,400ha of tropical rainforest.
The land was originally set aside for the local communities living off the forest.
Bruno Manser, however, claimed that Abdul Taib Mahmud, as then-chief minister, had in 2008 secretly granted two palm oil concessions to a company linked to his son Mahmud Abu Bekir.
The NGO said Mahmud held on to Radiant Lagoon for 10 years before it was subsequently sold to a Malaysian palm oil tycoon who secured a US$31.5 million (RM131.9 million) loan from Singapore’s United Overseas Bank to develop the concessions.
The indigenous groups had since earlier this year mounted blockades against Radiant Lagoon's logging activities to clear the land, leading up to a temporary stop in March after tensions rose between the communities and the company workers.
At the time, it was reported that Mulu assemblyperson Gerawat Gala had chaired a closed-door meeting involving the affected Penan and Berawan communities, the oil palm company, and enforcement agencies, but to no avail.
In February, Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok also said she was very concerned by the developments, but noted that land matters fell under the jurisdiction of the state.
Following the filing of the lawsuit, Bruno Manser also reiterated its calls for the Sarawak state government and other relevant authorities to revoke the concession and end all deforestation activities.