“In the past the frog was under the coconut, but the problem is that now the frog has a phone.”
The profitability of the Sarawak oil palm industry is heavily reliant on an abundance of cheap and easily managed Indonesian labour. It is estimated that 80-90% of the plantation workforce is made up of Indonesians and that a substantial portion of these are illegal migrants. In Sarawak, Indonesian workers are viewed with distrust and there is little regard for their safety or welfare. In order to ease local concerns, Indonesian labourers have few rights and are strictly controlled. They suffer low wages, long hours, and difficult conditions. Legal migrants are generally recruited from the distant islands of the Indonesian archipelago, passports removed, and movement highly restricted. Conditions for illegal workers can vary, from daily movement back-and-forth across the border to extremely harsh conditions and the risk of severe
punishments. This talk looks beyond what is generally stereotyped as a homogenous group and puts a face to the Indonesian labourer, highlighting their diverse cultural backgrounds, exploring the reasons and methods of migration, the livelihood strategies involved, and the difficulties of life in the palms.
This talked is from my chapter in the book, “The Oil Palm Complex: Smallholders, Agribusiness and the State in Indonesia and Malaysia”, which is edited by Rob Cramb: http://nuspress.nus.edu.sg/products/theoil-palm-complex-smallholders-agribusiness-and-the-state-in-indonesia-and-malaysia?variant=9227552005
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Sunny Sanderson is a PhD candidate in the School of Agriculture & Food Sciences. Her project is looking at the impacts of large-scale oil palm development on rural livelihoods in Sarawak. Prior to this research, she has had extensive experience in both Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo. Past projects include working with the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project in Sabah; managing the Gunung Palung Orangutan Project in West Kalimantan; and also undertaking a Research Masters on the variation of greatcall structure of hybrid gibbons in Central Borneo.