Resolution Plan endorsement by the Complaints Panel
IOI’s Resolution Plan received Complaints Panel's (CP) conditional endorsement at the end of June 2018. The Resolution Plan consists of three stages:
- Community Capacity Building,
- Community Participatory Mapping, and
- Negotiations for Final Dispute Settlement.
Resolution Plan socialization
The Resolution Plan was subsequently presented to all affected communities during a 7-day long visit on 30 June – 6 July, 2018. The main purpose of the socialisation exercise was to explain the Resolution Plan and seek communities’ consent. Grassroots, Pelita and an RSPO observer participated alongside IOI’s team in the socialization program.
Obtaining free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for Resolution Plan implementation
As of 1 October 2018, 6 out of 9 communities gave their consent. By November 2018, two more communities did so. However, the last remaining community, Long Teran Batu, gave their consent only in March 2019. Having secured the consent from all affected communities, IOI started the implementation of the Resolution Plan.
Regular engagement with other key stakeholders
From the very beginning IOI and Pelita have been regularly engaging other key stakeholders such as the Sarawak State Government and local NGOs to ensure their support for the resolution process. The Complaints Panel of the RSPO has been regularly updated and consulted.
Stage 1: Community Capacity Building (February 2019 - June 2019)
On 18 January 2019, IOI retained the services of the Community’s Information and Communication Centre (CICOM), a local NGO, to conduct Community Capacity Building program, which is the main component of Stage I of the Resolution Plan.
In February 2019, IOI and CICOM launched the Community Capacity Building program, the purpose of which was to do the following:
- Double check whether the communities have good understanding of
- RSPO Principles & Criteria on conflict resolution,
- Free, Prior and Informed Consent process, and
- Resolution Plan itself;
- Provide affected communities with any needed advice and technical expertise;
- Gather community grievances, on the basis of which the Community Participatory Mapping would be designed.
CICOM completed the Capacity Building Program at the end of June 2019.
Stage 2: Community Participatory Mapping (August 2019 - November 2020)
Equipped with the insights gained in the course of the Community Capacity Building, CICOM started the Community Participatory Mapping in August 2019. The purpose of this important task is to identify, map out and validate communities’ land claims and other grievances. All affected communities have an opportunity to be included in this exercise and have their land surveyed.
The outcome of this stage will be of critical importance for the success of the subsequent and the last stage of the resolution process: Negotiations for the Final Settlement.
Over the last several months, the Community Participatory Mapping has proven more challenging than expected. CICOM put a great deal of effort into making sure the affected communities understand the community mapping process and are ready to actively participate in it. Any community boundary mapping can raise communities’ concerns and cause tension. Therefore, CICOM had to address this challenge before the land survey (mapping) could start. Then the rainy season made the area inaccessible for a while. In a few cases, there were some community factions that initially did not want to participate. Further delays were caused by festive seasons (Christmas and Chinese New Year), unavailability of some community leaders due to illness, and difficulty in finding convenient time for the community members to participate in training sessions and the land survey itself. Furthermore, CICOM experienced a severe shortage of its own surveyors to assist community members in the mapping exercise. As a result, the completion of the Community Participatory Mapping has been delayed.
By mid-March 2020, six out of nine affected communities had their surveys done. Unfortunately, at that point, the coronavirus outbreak reached Sarawak and the government issued Movement Control Order. The Community Participatory Mapping had to be put on hold.
On 12 June 2020, CICOM resumed the Community Participatory Mapping process.
Two of the remaining three communities yet to be mapped, Long Jegan and Long Teran Batu, had some reservations about their participation in the Community Participatory Mapping. To address their concerns, a team consisting of the State of Sarawak’s Ministry of Modernization of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development (MANRED), Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA), District Office of Beluru, and IOI visited the two communities on July 20-21. As a result, Long Jegan and Long Teran Batu decided to participate in the mapping exercise. The mapping of these two villages was completed on 29 July 2020.
On 21 July 2020, the Penans of Long Lapok, which is another local community living outside the Provisional Lease area, submitted to IOI a request to include them in the Resolution Process. Based on the evidence submitted by the Penans, their community was subsequently included in the mapping exercise as well as the entire conflict resolution process.
Despite all the difficulties CICOM managed to complete the initial mapping exercise in line with the deadline of 31 July 2020. However, when CICOM proceeded to socialization and verification of the maps with the affected communities, a group of 48 LTKA farmers suddenly came up with new land claims, which required CICOM to conduct further land surveys and thus delayed the process of the Community Participatory Mapping.
On August 7th, the Berawan of Long Jegan sent a letter to the RSPO expressing their dissatisfaction with IOI Pelita and CICOM helping other communities with mapping their land claims without consultation with the leaders of Long Jegan who claim the entire area. IOI Pelita and the representatives of the State of Sarawak Government met on October 5th and obtained Long Jegan’s consent to continue their participation in the mapping process and delay the addressing of the overlapping land claims till the next stage of the resolution process, that is till Stage 3 – Negotiations for Final Dispute Settlement. The local authorities made it also clear that the intercommunal land disputes between various communities are beyond the control or authority of IOI Pelita and instead should be directed to their District Officer. During the meeting the elders of Long Jegan asked IOI Pelita and CICOM for help with additional mapping exercises. This unfortunately delayed the completion of Stage 2. CICOM completed the Community Participatory Mapping and Stage 2 of the Resolution Process on 7 November 2020.
Community Participatory Mapping Socialization Session in Long Teran Batu
Stage 3: Negotiations for Final Settlement
Following the statement issued by IOI Pelita on 19 March 2021, IOI Pelita obtained the support of RSPO to proceed with the negotiation stage of the resolution process. All the eight participating communities confirmed in writing their readiness.
Under difficult travel conditions, IOI Pelita held the first round of negotiations with all the eight community groups, one at a time, on 5-7 April in Miri. The meetings were observed by RSPO and other relevant stakeholders such as the Sarawak State government representatives. Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, some participants had opted to join the process via Zoom. Prof. Dr Ramy Bulan, an independent native customary rights expert who is also a Sarawak native, facilitated the meetings.
At each meeting, the facilitator asked each community group whether or not they were giving their consent to proceed with the first round of negotiations. All the eight community groups gave their consent. Then each community group presented their list of demands towards IOI Pelita. Following that, IOI Pelita asked clarifying questions to make sure the demands were well understood. Finally, all observers were given a chance to make their comments.
In its opening remarks, IOI Pelita reconfirmed its offer to excise the unplanted land of approximately 4,000-5,000 ha, which the Sarawak State Government had agreed to declare as Native Communal Reserve and provide communal and individual land titles thereon to all the eight community groups.
The right of each community group to request expert advice at any point of time during the negotiation stage was emphasized. IOI also clarified that it had no authority to decide how the excised land would be divided among the communities, and the communities themselves would have to manage that process using Adat (customary law) as guidance.
Based on the list of demands presented by the communities during the first round of negotiations, IOI Pelita developed a settlement offer for each community group. The settlement offer letters were sent to all community groups on May 31st to provide the communities with sufficient time to consider these offers before the next round of negotiations.
First Round of Negotiation for Final Settlement at Grand Palace Hotel, Miri Sarawak
As soon as the Movement Control Order (MCO) was lifted, IOI Pelita held the second round of negotiations with all eight communities, one at a time, on 23-25 September 2021. Similar to the first round of negotiations, the meetings were observed by RSPO and other relevant stakeholders such as the Sarawak State government representatives. Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions some participants had opted to join the process via Zoom. The meetings were videotaped and recorded.
All eight communities provided their response to IOI Pelita’s settlement offers.
At the beginning of each individual session, IOI Pelita explained the settlement offer in detail and confirmed the exact size of the land to be excised (4,700 ha) and the planted land to be kept by IOI Pelita (4,300 ha). IOI Pelita stressed the unprecedented character of the settlement offer. As a result of the 2nd round, 7 communities agreed in principle to IOI Pelita’s settlement offer.
Long Jegan community made two requests for the Sarawak State Government:
- to provide reassurance that the excised land will not be given to anyone else but the 8 community groups participating in the resolution process, and
- to appointment of facilitator for the process of dividing the excised land among the community groups.
The eight community, LTKB, asked IOI Pelita to excise 300 ha of IOI Pelita planted land (the land IOI Pelita keeps) and return it back to LTKB. This, however, is legally impossible. IOI Pelita is a leaseholder and it can only surrender the land to the Sarawak State Government. This fact was explained to the LTKB community but the community stood firmly by its demand.
As soon as the 2nd round of negotiations ended on Saturday, September 25th, IOI Pelita, Dr Ramy Bulan, and all government agencies participating in the negotiations recognized the need to address Long Jegan’s concerns and came up with a detailed action plan aimed at providing all communities with more clarity and reassurance as to how the Sarawak State Government will handle the question of land titling and which agency will play a facilitation role and help communities divide the excised land among themselves.
In October 2021, IOI Pelita held several meetings with the Sarawak State Government representatives to address communities’ remaining concerns regarding the status of the 4,615 hectares of land that IOI Pelita agreed to surrender.
An inter-governmental meeting held on 2 December 2021 decided that Resident of Miri Office, acting on behalf of the Sarawak State Government, will meet each affected community to:
- inform them that the land surrendered by IOI Pelita will be gazetted as communal land under Section 6 of the Land Code, with all 8 communities as trustees,
- ask for communities’ consent to allow a licensed surveyor to conduct a survey of the excised land as it is the necessary step for publishing the gazette,
- reassure them that the survey will take into account the results of the Community Participatory Mapping conducted by CICOM,
- explain that it will be entirely up to the communities how they divide the gazetted land among themselves.
On 3 December 2021, IOI Pelita’s Board of Directors adopted a decision to excise approximately 4,615 ha of land from its Provisional Lease providing the affected communities and the company reach the final settlement agreement. Subsequently, in February 2022, IOI Pelita officially informed Sarawak State’s Land & Survey Department and other relevant branches of the Sarawak State Government of IOI Pelita’s Board’s decision to excise approximately 4,615 ha of land from its Provisional Lease.
The last round of ex-gratia claims verification and validation was completed as planned at the end of January 2022. 57 additional claimants claiming in total 398.49 ha of land were validated and will receive ex-gratia payment upon signing of the final settlement agreement between the eight affected communities and the company.
Unfortunately, LTKB community decided not to participate in this process, still insisting on its demand for IOI Pelita to a) give back also the land inside the IOI Pelita planted area, for which IOI Pelita made ex-gratia payment to the individual land claimants, and b) return that land directly to LTKB, which is not possible because IOI Pelita as a leaseholder can only return the land to the Sarawak State Government.the company.
Unfortunately On March 16, 2022, all relevant branches of the Sarawak State Government and IOI Pelita held a dialogue session with all 8 communities and confirmed to them IOI-Pelita’s decision to excise approx. 4,615 ha of land, and the Sarawak State’s decision to declare the excised land as Native Communal Reserve (under Section 6 of the Land Code) and to have this land gazetted for the 8 communities as soon as a) all 8 communities and the company reach and sign the settlement agreement, and b) land survey is conducted to delineate the land to be kept by IOI Pelita and the land to be excised by IOI Pelita as per the Final Settlement Agreement. All communities, except LTKB, expressed their approval of the plan. LTKB’s position was not clear. Subsequent engagements by IOI Pelita with LTKB confirmed that LTKB still insisted on its unrealistic demands.
Towards the end of May, LTKB changed its position and on 30 May 2022, in Miri, joined the other seven communities and signed the Final Settlement Agreement in front of the Sarawak State Government, RSPO, and other stakeholders. It is a landmark settlement without a precedent in Sarawak, a case whereby a company agrees to excise more than a half of its land under the Provisional Lease and the Sarawak State agrees to return this land to the natives. This precedent should pave the way for a more effective resolution of many other similar land-related cases in the state.
Updated as of 28 March 2022