Friday, 29 January 2010

NGOs upset with EU’s stand on disputed timber

PETALING JAYA: Indigenous groups are crying foul over the European Union’s readiness to sign a timber trade agreement with Malay-sia.

This was despite the continuous boycott of so-called multi-stakeholder consultations by various indigenous groups since March last year.

The groups, known as the Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia and Jaringan Orang Asal dan NGO Tentang Isu-isu Hutan (JOANGOHutan), have rejected the requirement that defines the source of timber as legal based merely on existing laws.

They object to the fact that the definition ignores how logging licences have often been issued on land claimed by indigenous communities without their free, prior and informed consent.

On Monday, the adviser to the ministry on the negotiations, Datuk Dr Freezailah Che Yeom, said substantial progress on the negotiations has been made on the agreement known as the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade-Voluntary Partnership Agreement.

The Head of the EU delegation to Malaysia, Vincent Piket, said many technical details had been resolved but acknowledged that there remained “difficult issues” to be settled by July.

He also dismissed concerns that the non-participation of NGOs would derail the July deadline, pointing to a meeting between the NGOs and Plantation Industries and Commo­dities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok at the end of last year.

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