KUALA LUMPUR – Hundreds of demonstrators, including small-scale farmers and government workers, gathered in central Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday to protest a European Parliament resolution on palm oil and deforestation.
The European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution in April last year addressing the issue of palm oil production and related deforestation, which recommended increased efforts to protect forests and guarantee the sustainability of the palm oil industry.
The rally, which was called by Faces of Palm Oil, a joint project involving various groups representing Malaysian smallholders, denounced the EU’s proposed “ban” on the palm oil industry.
Over 3.2 million Malaysians rely on the palm oil industry for their livelihoods, according to the group.
Around 500 farmers joined government officials outside the Malaysian Federal Land Development Authority, while another group protested near the EU’s delegation building in Kuala Lumpur, an epa journalist reports.
Dato’ Haji Aliasak Bin Haji Ambia, president of the National Association of Small Holders, one of the groups which organized the protest, has accused the EU of “imposing a ‘Crop Apartheid’ on farmers from the developing world.”
“Rural communities across Malaysia would be devastated by the proposed restriction and thousands would be driven into poverty,” according to a press release by Faces of Palm Oil.
“The Malaysian Government has previously warned that if any ban on palm oil would be implemented by the EU, (it) would take the necessary actions in order to protect the rights and livelihoods of Malaysian smallholders,” the statement added.
The EU delegation in Malaysia, responding to concerns arising from the European Parliament’s recommendations last April, sought to ease those fears in October last year, reminding Malaysians that the resolution was a non-binding recommendation.
The EU’s statement added that despite the “environmental and social risks associated with palm oil production, such as deforestation and biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions, and human rights, health and welfare issues,” the EU had noted that the industry “plays an important role in the economies of producing countries such as Malaysia and that it contributes directly and indirectly to lifting people out of poverty in these countries.”
The EU’s environmental concerns appear to be of little significance to the protest organizers, who have accused Europe of “modern-day colonialism” and of “discriminating against our oil palm smallholders,” members of Faces of Palm Oil said.