Spectacular early morning view upper Baram rainforest which the Penans declared as their peace park. (Photo: Chua)

Spectacular early morning view of upper Baram rainforest which the Penans declared as their peace park. (Photo: Chua)

About 200 Penans have declared 163,000ha of remote jungle in upper Baram, Sarawak, as their peace park to protect their way of life, according to the Swiss-based environmental movement, Bruno Manser Fund (BMF).

In an email to Bernama here Monday, BMF claimed that a declaration ceremony took place at the remote village of Long Ajeng in Baram recently to endorse the creation of the park aimed at conserving the area as a nature reserve as it was the Penan’s last remaining primeval jungle.

“The Penan wish to develop tourism in their region and insist on the protection of their native customary rights,” the statement added.

The statement quoted a Penan former penghulu, James Lalo Kesoh, as saying that his community still depended on the jungle for their livelihood and that it should be preserved for future generations.

“Even though we have settled down and started life as farmers since the late 1950s, we still depend on the jungle for our food supply, for raw materials such as rattan for handicrafts, for medicinal plants and for other jungle produce,” he said. Meanwhile, Long Ajeng headman Jawa Nyipa said they hoped the declaration would enable them to live peacefully with their neighbouring tribes and as “fully recognised Malaysian citizens.”

“We call this park ‘Peace Park’ because peace is a very important concept in our culture,” he added.

BMF said the proclamation of the new park marked the Penan’s challenge to the Sarawak government which had earmarked the area for logging. – Bernama