Penan – ‘Our forests are disappearing’

Nine Penan leaders from Sarawak, Malaysia, told visitors to the World Rainforest Music Festival this month that their rainforest home was disappearing.

‘While you enjoy the sounds of the rainforest, remember we now hear only the sounds of chainsaws and tractors,’ said the Penan.

‘As our forests disappear, they are being replaced by oil palm and acacia.
These forests cannot give us food, water, a home or medicines. Without our forests and lands, we become poor, we lose our homes with no hope of good jobs and our children are robbed of their future and their heritage. We have the right to live in the lands of our ancestors, just as you do.’

The Penan leaders also met with officials from the Sarawak state government to demand that it recognise their rights to their land and stop issuing logging and plantation licences on their land.

The Penan are nomadic hunter-gatherers. Many are now settled in villages, but about 300 continue to live a completely nomadic life in the forest.

Groups of Penan have set up blockades on roads through their forest to stop loggers destroying their homes.

According to Malaysian and international law the Penan have rights to their land and should be consulted before any logging can proceed, but these rights are openly violated.