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 Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani
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 The Sun Daily
 KL govt to blame, say Papua NGOs

18/12/06 (The Sun Daily) PENANG - The government should take responsibility for the actions of Malaysian timber and oil palm companies which are the main culprits of illegal logging and open burning in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Indonesia, several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said.

"In the name of bringing foreign investment and development to PNG and Indonesia, these powerful multi-national companies have caused the displacement of local communities, particularly indigenous people, the deprivation of their native customary rights to land, the loss of their source of livelihood as well as environmental destruction and degradation," a spokesman for several PNG and Indonesian NGOs said.

The NGOs also said that in PNG, Malaysian companies were responsible for widespread human right abuses and political corruption.

They said these companies have disgraced Malaysia.

They were speaking at a joint press conference today after a three-day Sahabat Alam Malaysia seminar on land rights, indigenous people, logging and plantation that saw 40 participants from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, PNG, Nepal, India, Chile and the Netherlands.

The logging industry in PNG is dominated by Malaysian companies with one Malaysian company owning five of the 12 major logging projects while in Indonesia, Malaysian companies are said to be responsible for widespread illegal logging, especially along the Kalimantan-Sarawak- Sabah border.

The group's spokesman, Indonesian Muhamad Yayat Afianto, said last year, Indonesian police released a wanted list of 16 Malaysian company officials whose

companies were involved in these illegal activities.

He claimed that seven Malaysian-owned companies have been clearing forests in Central Kalimantan without proper permits from the Indonesian Forestry Ministry and at least five companies in Riau and another five in Central Kalimantan have used fire to clear the forest for plantations.

"Malaysian companies are also responsible for laundering millions of cubic metres of illegal Indonesian timber each year.

"Timber from illegal logging in Riau, Sumatra are illegally imported into Malaysia and laundered in Malacca, Batu Pahat, Muar and Port Klang before being re-exported to China, Japan, Europe and the US.

"Illegal logs from Kalimantan are also smuggled into Sarawak and Sabah where they are laundered with Malaysian forestry documents and exported to Peninsular Malaysia and foreign markets," Yayat claimed.

He said the Malaysian government could not abandon its obligations to prevent the country's reputation from being marred by these companies.

"It owes a moral obligation to the PNG and Indonesian people to ensure its companies behave responsibly," he added.

Chair of Friends of the Earth International, Meenakshi Raman, said: "The government is always talking about Malaysians overseas who are champions but if these are our champions, we should bury our heads in shame."

"The government cannot say that it is PNG or Indonesia's problem and remain quiet," she added.

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