On the struggle for Native Customary Rights of the G6 Communities

The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) strongly supports the struggle of the Orang Asal communities of Pitas, Sabah and stands with them in their defense of land, territories, and ways of life against private interests which threaten their Native Customary Rights (NCR).

In a span of three years, over 2,300 acres of mangrove plantation in Pitas, Northern Sabah was cleared to pave the way for the Pitas Shrimp Park, a joint venture between the Yayasan Sabah’s Inno-Fisheries Sdn Bhd and the Sun­light Seafood (Sabah) Sdn Bhd. The villagers had no prior knowledge of the project until it encroached on their land in 2014.

The Mangrove Plantation in Pitas in 2013 and 2018. In less than 3 years, over 2,300 acres of mangroves have been cleared for aquaculture. Photo from Shrimp News International.

This led to the formation of the G6 or the Group of the 6 affected communities namely Kampung Telaga, Kampung Gumpa, Kampung Ungkup, Kampung Boluuh Skim, Kampung Datong, and Kampung Sungai Eloi. The G6, headed by its founder, Mastupai Somong, is at the forefront of the struggle to save the remaining 1,000 acres of mangroves and get the area legally recognized as NCR Land.

The members of the G6 communities are mostly of Dusun, Rungus, Sungai, and Tombonuo descent. The destruction of the area would not only mean the destruction of their livelihood and resources, but also of their Indigenous identities and ways of life as the shrimp park has also affected their means to create traditional medicine, gather building materials, and to practice traditional rituals in sacred sites.

“Development projects” like the Pitas Shrimp Park supposedly bring the promise of job opportunities, roads, and access to basic utilities like water and electricity, but these promises often do not materialize and instead, leaves Indigenous communities in even more unfavorable conditions than before. The Pitas Shrimp Park, which claims to be Asia’s largest aquaculture project, failed to provide jobs for the villagers of Kampung Sungai Eloi. The mangrove swamp, which once was home to a wide diversity of endangered species of flora and fauna, is now a mere waste dump of the companies.

IPMSDL condemns these Inno-Fisheries and Sunlight Seafood’s blatant disregard of the Orang Asal’s right to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). We hold these actors accountable for the Orang Asal’s loss of livelihood and all the ecological damages in their territory. We challenge Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman to stand with the Orang Asal and uphold their Native Customary Rights.

We also call on friends, allies, and fellow Indigenous Peoples to stand in solidarity with the G6 in their struggle for FPIC and self-determined development. Let us continue to support and advance the G6’s collective and militant actions to defend their lands and right to self-determination!

Long live the G6 Communities! Protect our ancestral lands!
Uphold the Orang Asal’s Right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent!
Uphold the Orang Asal’s Native Customary Rights!

 

Reference: Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator | info@ipmsdl.org