Kuala Lumpur Kepong, please leave Collingwood Bay

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and Friends of the Orangutans (FOTO) urge Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK Bhd) to immediately withdraw from Lot 5 in Collingwood Bay, Papua New Guinea and cease all its activities.

 In a recent study commissioned by SAM in assessing the scale of Malaysian overseas FDI in oil palm plantation’s land bank,[1] research showed that KLK Bhd owned about 44,000 hectares of land, most of which are primary forest in Papua New Guinea. KLK Bhd is among the largest plantation companies in Malaysia with approximately 250,000 ha of land bank in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The study had also highlighted that both KLK Bhd and Batu Kawan Bhd had in December 2012 collectively acquired 69% of shares in Collingwood Plantation Pte in Singapore from a Malaysian national living in PNG. Collingwood Plantation claimed to have registered rights over 3 pieces of land in Collingwood Bay, Oro Province, which included one 99-year State Lease over 5,992ha on Lot 5 and two 49 year Special Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs) covering 21,520ha and 16,830ha on Lots 113C and 143C respectively.[2]

On 20 May 2014, a High Court in Papua New Guinea declared two large land development leases (Lots 113C and 143C) totalling 38,350 belonging to KLK Bhd in the Collingwood Bay region of PNG, null and void. The Court ordered the State to cancel the SABLs belonging to KLK Bhd.[3] The civil suit was brought by customary landowners on behalf of the Collingwood Bay communities and the Governor of the Oro Province Gary Juffa against KLK’s plan to develop their forested lands into oil palm plantations. Besides bringing a civil suit, the communities also filed a formal complaint with the Roundtable Sustainable Oil Palm (RSPO) in April 2013. In January 2014, RSPO decided that KLK Bhd had to cease all activities in the area until the legality of the leases were determined by the court and they could show proof that KLK Bhd had undertaken a free prior and informed consent process with the whole community. [4]

Despite the cancellation of these leases by the court and the protests from Collingwood Bay communities, KLK Bhd continues to operate in the area with intention to develop Lot 5. Lot 5 has not been cancelled and KLK Bhd claims that this lot is not customary land but State land.

However, according to a Maisin landowner, Lester Seri, who was also a Plaintiff in the civil suit against KLK Bhd, Lot 5 is within Maisin customary lands and holds primary forest and small patches of ‘kunai grass’ that the communities annually use for game hunting. Further, he stated that 80% of the forest in Lot 5 is primary forest and High Carbon Stock (HCS) forest.

The local communities in Collingwood Bay have been fighting to save their lands from oil palm projects and illegal land grabs for more than 3 decades. These communities depend on their forests as a source of income and it is of paramount importance the forests they depend on remain intact. The Council of Chiefs in Collingwood Bay has made it clear they do not want their lands converted to oil palm plantations. They also do not welcome KLK’s presence in Collingwood Bay and continue to demand that KLK urgently leaves. Maisin landowner Lester Seri informed SAM and FOTO, “there is no change, the Collingwood communities do not want oil palm and KLK in Collingwood Bay.”

The communities’ resistance against KLK Bhd’s operations in Collingwood Bay is high and in order not to cause further embarrassment to Malaysia, SAM and FOTO demand that KLK Bhd should respect the rights and wishes of these communities, cease all operations and leave the area immediately.

S.M. Mohamed Idris, Presiden, Sahabat Alam Malaysia

Upreshpal Singh, Director, Friends of the Orangutans

[1]Read more: http://www.foe-malaysia.org/#!pr-malaysian-ofdi/c1vwi
[2] Ibid
[3]Read more: http://ran.org/contested-klk-palm-oil-leases-declared-illegal-papua-new-guinea-court#ixzz34m5m65ZQ

Press Release, 30 October 2014