KUALA LUMPUR (July 22): Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok has come out to respond to allegations by environmental group Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) that native customary land rights (NCR) are being violated in the palm oil industry.
In a statement today, Kok reiterated that it is mandatory for companies registered under the Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) to recognise land use rights and NCR.
In addition, she said all entities going for MSPO certification will have in place an appropriate conflict and dispute resolution process which has been accepted by all concerned stakeholders.
She added that if there are, or have been, disputes, documented proof of legal acquisition of land title and fair compensation that have been or are being made to previous owners and occupants will be made available.
Kok said the documented proof of legal acquisition of land title and fair compensation should be accepted with free prior informed consent.
"The regulations are applicable in Sabah and Sarawak, just as it is in Peninsular Malaysia," she said.
Kok also said MSPO is a national sustainable scheme for the palm oil sector which was developed after taking into consideration of Malaysia's demographic and socio-economic situation.
She pointed out that under the Principle 3 Compliance to legal requirements, potential certificate applicants are required to prove that their land use rights, and their oil palm cultivation activities, do not diminish the land use rights of other users.
Applicants are also required to provide documents showing legal ownership or lease, history of land tenure and the actual use of the land, Kok said.
"NCR components are also prominently present in MSPO Standard as one of the criteria in Principle 3," she added.
Kok said this criterion required potential certificate applicants to recognise and demonstrate efforts towards fair resolution of any NCR claims.
For lands that are encumbered by customary rights, Kok said the company should demonstrate that these rights are understood and are not being threatened or reduced.
"Maps of an appropriate scale showing extent of recognised customary rights shall be made available; and Negotiation and FPIC shall be recorded and copies of negotiated agreements should be made available.
"I hope this clarifies to all parties that through MSPO we are striving to produce sustainable palm oil and these covers land rights as well," she said.
Yesterday, SAM said in a statement that Kok must learn the difference between the situation of small holders in Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak before supporting the palm oil industries, as there can be no sustainable palm oil industry if NCR continue to be encroached by big plantations companies.