Forest protesters bamboo the Regent

Issue 

Forest protesters bamboo the Regent

By Steve Painter

SYDNEY — Rainforest activists planned to erect a symbolic bamboo barricade across the entrance to the Sydney Regent hotel on July 13 in a re-enactment of a similar protest at the Malaysian consulate last August. The Regent protest coincides with a visit by Malaysian trade minister Dating Aziz.

On July 9, five rainforest activists were each fined $200 and $45 costs for failing to apologise over the peaceful protest last year. Three others who apologised received no penalty. The fines were close to the maximum of $250.

The eight were appearing for sentencing after they had earlier been found guilty of unreasonable obstruction of the consulate during a protest against rainforest logging in Sarawak.

Democrat MP Richard Jones, who witnessed the alleged obstruction of the consulate, issued an open letter to the court saying any interference with the consulate's business was "symbolic and only momentary", and Friends of the Earth spokesperson John Hallam said the protesters' action was "fully justified" in view of the Malaysian government's destructive logging and its repressive policies towards the native peoples of Sarawak.

Even the World Bank has observed that the pace of rainforest logging in Malaysia is four times what it should be. One of the eight defendants in the consulate case told Green Left Weekly that she is critical of the Australian government's attitude, saying it is relying on an International Tropical Timber Organisation target of the end of the century for a total shift to plantation harvesting of rainforest timber. "This will be too late for Malaysia's forests", she explained. At present rates of exploitation, "they will be exhausted by the mid-1990s".

Native peoples such as the Penan are being deprived of their traditional livelihoods by the destruction of the rainforests. In the past year about 110 tribespeople have been arrested by Malaysian authorities for protesting against logging.

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