Over 1,000 protest against EU move to ban palm oil biofuel

Malaysian oil palm smallholders gather to protest against Europe’s campaign to ban palm biofuels, at the EU Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, 16 January 16, 2018. — Pix by Azneal Ishak
Malaysian oil palm smallholders gather to protest against Europe’s campaign to ban palm biofuels, at the EU Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, 16 January 16, 2018. — Pix by Azneal Ishak

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — About 1,700 Malaysian palm oil smallholders today rallied against the European Union’s (EU) move to remove palm oil from its biofuels mix.

The protest demanded that the EU withdraw its proposal to ban, after 2020, palm oil biofuels from a list of renewable fuels, claiming that it discriminated against Malaysia and undermined the United Nations’ sustainable development goals to eradicate poverty.

“They want to subject 3.2 million people whom are mostly rural farmers back into poverty who relied heavily on the industry for their livelihood,” Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) chairman Tan Sri Shahrir Samad said at the protest.

Carl Henrik receives the memorandum from Malaysian oil palm smallholders at the EU Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, 16 January 16, 2018.
Carl Henrik receives the memorandum from Malaysian oil palm smallholders at the EU Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, 16 January 16, 2018.

Protesters came from Felda, the National Association of Smallholders Malaysia, Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority and Sarawak Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association.

They congregated at the nearby Menara Felda and Menara Tabung Haji while a group of representatives marched to the EU Embassy at Menara Tan and Tan along Jalan Tun Razak at around 2pm.

The group then handed over several boxes of petitions with at least 103,000 signatures to an EU delegate, who was represented by an officer, under the supervision of several police officers at the building’s lobby.

Signatures were gathered from those in Felda, National Association of Smallholders Malaysia, Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority and Sarawak Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association.

In October 2017, the European Parliament passed a resolution to phase out palm oil exports from the EU biofuel programme from 2021.

The resolution was passed on claims that palm oil manufacturers have failed to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals on responsible consumption, production and climate action.

Shahrir said if Malaysia was to be blamed for climate change, the EU should go after the United States instead, referring to their withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

“They claim Malaysia does not have 50 per cent of land masses covered in forest and the cultivation of palm oil has led to deforestation.

“It’s hypocrisy and disrespectful. They are well aware of the link between palm oil production and rural farmers,” he said.

Shahrir said he was however doubtful that today’s protest would impact the European Parliament’s motion to vote on the matter tomorrow.

“However the protest is a way to signal the disagreement smallholders have with the ban and we can always escalate our protests as this is not the last it will be,” he said.

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