Baram Communities Lodge Complaint about MTCC Failures with International Certification Body PEFC

Civil society organisations argue MTCC dispute resolution process is faulty, standards not met for Gerenai Forest Management Unit under timber giant Samling

(MIRI / SARAWAK / MALAYSIA) A group of organisations lodged an official complaint with the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), the international body based in Switzerland that endorses the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme (MTCS). The group claims that the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC) has failed to uphold the sustainability standards necessary to qualify for endorsement under PEFC in the case of a forest area under the logging company Samling in Northern Sarawak.

Communities lodged official complaints about the alleged lack of free, prior and informed consent and transparency in Samling’s logging operations with MTCC in May, which in turn opened up a dispute resolution process. To the disappointment of the communities, this process was halted when timber giant Samling filed suit against Save Rivers, one of the NGOs supporting community efforts to protect their forests, even though Save Rivers was not one of the entities to file the complaint.

“The entire process that we have had to engage in to stand up for our rights puts serious doubt on whether the Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme meets the standards of PEFC,” reads the complaint: “Refusing to continue with the dispute resolution process leaves community hands tied while litigation drags on, potentially for years. In the meantime, the forests of the Baram region of Sarawak will continue to be logged and the communities will continue to suffer. We believe this lawsuit was designed to silence criticism and avoid accountability, and as the MTCC has now bowed to pressure and disregarded community claims, Samling has succeeded in doing just that.”

Boyce Ngau, vice chairman of Gerenai Community Rights Action Committee (GCRAC), a group representing communities within the Samling logging concession, said that the communities hope that the complaints process will help stop the logging: “The communities are not happy with the certification awarded to Samling because they feel like their rights are not being honored by the authorities. As a representative of the impacted communities, I wish to tell Samling that they should immediately stop cutting down the trees.”  

The complaint to PEFC was filed by GCRAC with the support of The Borneo Project and the Bruno Manser Fund. The signatories ask that PEFC suspend their endorsement of MTCS (Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme) until the matter is solved.

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The Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) is committed to protecting the threatened tropical rainforests and the rights of the Indigenous peoples, especially in Sarawak, Malaysia.

The Borneo Project brings international attention and support to community-led efforts to defend forests, sustainable livelihoods, and human rights.

Picture: Boyce Ngau, Vice Chairman of the Gerenai Community Rights Action Committee (GCRAC)