Indigenous leaders call on the UK to stop rainforest destruction

Indigenous delegates from Sarawak, Malaysia visit the United Kingdom this week to talk about Britain’s part in greenwashing timber from Borneo. The UK is the third largest importer of MTCS certified timber in the world.

(LONDON, UK/BARAM, MALAYSIA) An Indigenous delegation from Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, is visiting the United Kingdom to launch a new UK campaign to clean up the tropical timber trade and ask the UK government to suspend the import of so-called ‘sustainable timber’ under the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme MTCS. The UK is the third largest importer of MTCS-certified timber in the world. The new CUT campaign (Clean up the Tropical Timber Trade) highlights the impacts of destructive logging in Borneo’s forests and Indigenous territories and encourages the UK, as a key market destination for Malaysian timber, to act.

While in the UK, Celine Lim, Indigenous Kayan leader and head of the Malaysian grassroots organisation SAVE Rivers, and Komeok Joe, a Penan elder and head of Indigenous organisation KERUAN – Voice of the Penans, have met with UK and European government representatives, Malaysian diaspora and climate justice NGOs and activists. They have raised their communities’ concerns over deforestation and corporations’ failure to respect Indigenous land rights, as well as the role of the UK in driving these impacts. 

On Monday 23rd January, Celine Lim and Komeok Joe were joined by over 30 UK supporters in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall to collectively mourn the loss of the world’s rainforests and show gratitude for our Earth. From underneath Cecilia Vicuña’s gargantuan ‘Dead Forest Quipu’ installation, Komeok Joe and Celine Lim called out in solidarity to Indigenous Earth activists across the globe, and bestowed a traditional Sarawak ‘ash-blessing’ on participants during a powerful ritual-ceremony devised by British artist and activist Gaby Solly. The group went on to form a ‘funeral procession through London, to hand-deliver letters to the UK Government and to King Charles, Leader of the Commonwealth, demanding UK action to stop further rainforest destruction.

In the letter to the King and the British government, communities explain: “the logging companies tell the UK that their timber is sustainable. Do not believe them. They have not asked us for permission to log on our territories.” The letter invites the King and British government representatives to visit their area and witness the destruction themselves: “After seeing the destruction of our forests with your own eyes, we cannot imagine that you will still allow this timber to enter your country.”

Last year, the Indigenous delegation visited the Netherlands, top importer of MTCS-certified timber, to bring their #StopTheChop campaign abroad and show how the global community is linked to destruction of the rainforests.

For media inquires and further statements, please contact:
Celine Lim, managing director of SAVE Rivers: +60 19-885 7981
Komeok Joe, head of the Penan organization KERUAN: +60 19-898 6788
Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) press office +447566 1649
Gaby Solly, artist/activist and CUT co-ordinator: +447947 577 503

Notes:
With 22,381 m3, the United Kingdom was the number three destination for MTCS
certified timber (endorsed by PEFC International) after the Netherlands and Japan in 2020
MTCC Annual Report 2020
Malaysia has also offered to help mitigate the UK’s timber shortage caused by the war against Ukraine: https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2022/05/18/zuraida-malaysia-is-
ready-to-work-with-the-us-uk-on-timber-shortage/2059573