How Ungrateful, Selfish and Unreasonable Can Corporations Be? Very!

Consider this: a logging company was given a concession to log a large tract of rainforest in Sarawak, the Malaysian state on Borneo Island.

The logged over area would later be flooded to create a 14,750 sq km catchment area for the Bakun hydroelectric dam. For the record, and not to spite Singapore, the catchment area is more than twice the size of the island republic, which is only 697 sq km.

Massive water catchment area

Massive water catchment area

After harvesting the forest, and pocketing probably hundreds of millions in profits from the timber, the company is now pulling out of the area.

In doing so, the company will also dismantle two iron bridges, a decision that will cut off the Penans and other natives from the outside world.

According to The Star, the decision caused an uproar among politicians and thousands of rural natives, who described the firm’s decision as heartless and selfish.

The report says Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, who visited the area with several MPs from the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club, including Ulu Rejang MP Datuk Billy Abit Joo and Johor Baharu MP Datuk Shahrir Samad, said the firm must reconsider its decision.

“Do not touch the bridges for the next two months. I will make some phone calls and see how I can help these rural folks settle the issue,” Abit warned the timber firm after his visit to the interior.

Here is the full report from The Star newspaper:

Penans cut off from world
By STEPHEN THEN

LUSONG LAKU (Kapit, Sarawak): The decision by a Sarawak timber giant to dismantle iron bridges in the deep interior of central Sarawak, after completing logging operations in the Bakun dam area, has caused an uproar among politicians and thousands of rural natives.

They have described the firm’s decision as heartless and selfish.

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, who visited the area with several MPs from the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club, including Ulu Rejang MP Datuk Billy Abit Joo and Johor Baru MP Datuk Shahrir Samad, said the firm must reconsider its decision.

“Do not touch the bridges for the next two months. I will make some phone calls and see how I can help these rural folks settle the issue,’’ he warned the timber firm after his visit to the interior from last Tuesday to Friday.

He said he would bring the issue to the higher authorities in Kuala Lumpur.

The company, which has hundreds of thousands of logging concessions in Sarawak and overseas, pulled out of the Bakun region after completing its timber harvesting activities.

Next year, the Bakun region will be flooded to create a 14,750sq/km catchment area, after the 205m high main dam wall is completed.

The logging firm is now on the verge of pulling out its equipment, and will dismantle at least two iron bridges costing RM2mil on its way out, leaving thousands of natives, including Penans, cut off from the outside world.

The bridges, located near the Lusong Laku settlement in Kapit Division, are the most convenient means for the natives to cross the dangerous rivers separating them from urban centres.

They will have to cross the rivers in small boats and then walk for days to get to the nearest towns.

“These rural folk, especially the Penans, are already facing a lot of financial hardship, lack of food and water, and health problems because of the logging operations,” said Billy.

“How are they to travel out to seek medical help, send their children to school or buy daily necessities from the towns?

“Their forests have been ravaged by these loggers, who must be accountable and help these Penans, not just leave and dismantle the bridges. It is very selfish of them,’’ he added.

Lusong Laku Penan chief Tinggan Jate told The Star that they had appealed to the timber camp management, but to no avail.

“They said the decision to dismantle the bridges was made by their bosses (based in the company’s headquarters in Sibu). They are just carrying out orders,’’ said Tinggan.

Talk of bad corporate social responsibility.

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