It started thirty years ago when Swiss activist Bruno Manser left his home in Switzerland to escape the developed world. He found solace with the Penan people in the jungle of Sarawak, Malaysia. But he soon realised the paradise he found was under threat. The jungles were being logged against the will of the indigenous people and was resulting in environmental destruction as well as the loss of the traditions and cultural rights of the people.
Together, Bruno and Mutang, a local tribesman, rallied the people to make a stand, and blockade the loggers. The government was a part of the problem, so when the blockades were ripped down there was no other choice but to take the fight to the next level, so together they travelled internationally to rally the world.
Bruno chose public activism for rainforest preservation and the human rights of indigenous peoples, especially the Penan. This quickly brought him into conflict with the Malaysian government. Mutang chose diplomacy and met with leaders of the world. The price he paid when he returned to Sarawak was prison and torture. When he was released from solitary confinement, he felt he had no choice but to flee into exile. Bruno disappeared during his last journey to Sarawak in May 2000 has not been seen since.
When Malaysia's only independent radio station established, it gave a voice to the people. As the message got out about the corruption and destruction of the rainforests, Mutang knew he had to go back. He said to heck with my consequences "the forest is too important", so he decided to go on an underworld tour. He then went back to see his people and the forest he cared for.
The Borneo Case is screening at the Environmental Film Festival on October 15 from 3:30pm – 5:35pm. It will be followed by a panel discussion.
The panel is being facilitated by Professor Rod Keenan, University of Melbourne. He has a PhD in forest ecology from the University of British Columbia. Rod has research interests in sustainable forest management, forests and climate change, ecosystem services and forest policy.
The panellists are: Michael Pescott, The Forest Trust (TFT). He has worked in forest policy, trade and development in the Asia-Pacific region for the past 9 years, including work in Borneo with forestry concessions towards sustainable forest management as well as with agri-business towards forest identification and protection.
Julia Mylne, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), has a wealth of experience in policy and advocacy both within government and industry. She is currently responsible for a number of projects including but not limited to the development and implementation of the National Standard; Facilitating the Indigenous Working Group; and overseeing the Centralised National Risk Assessment for Controlled Wood.
Peter Booth, Director of Fishprint, has worked in the printing industry for more than 31 years. Peter owns and operates Fishprint, a printing company focused on delivering some of the world's most sustainable printing. Fishprint specialises in Waterless Offset printing (a water and chemical free printing process). Peter is a Board Member of the International Waterless Printing Association.