Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Orang Ulu natives may become squatters

Joseph Tawie | July 19, 2011

Once the Baram dam is constructed, their homes will be submerged, their land taken away from them, and they will be forced to become squatters, says activist Charles Gau.


KUCHING: The homes of the Orang Ulu natives comprising Kayan, Kenyah, Berawan, Kelabit and Penan may one day be submerged under water or their ancestral lands taken away from them.

Community activist Charles Gau warns that if this happens the natives will have to live as squatters in towns like Miri.

The natives longhouses and land will be submerged if the proposed Baram dam materialises and Gau said the only way to stop construction of the dam is for the elected representatives to speak up.

In an open letter to the Baram MP Jacob Sagan and the state assemblyman for Telang Usan Dennis Ngau, Gaus asked : “Who will be blamed for this blunder later on?”

A copy of the letter was extended to FMT.

On the current perimeter survey programme of their native customary rights (NCR) lands, Gau said that the problems faced by the people are that they cannot determine whether their NCR lands were created before Jan 1, 1958 or after.

“If they cannot ascertain the status of their lands, then the lands will be taken by the government. What will be left behind are lands surrounding the longhouses and the villages which are usually situated near rivers.

“Not many people are aware that longhouses and villages built on marine reserves are illegal,” he said, and asked the status of longhouses and villages built along Baram, Tutoh-Apoh and Tinjar rivers.

Gau said that the people will be thankful to the two elected representatives if they can help stop the construction of the Baram dam.

He said that even though the two elected representatives have won in the previous elections, but if they cannot do anything about the dam, they will not get any votes from the natives whose lands and longhouses will be affected by the dam.

On the many promises made by the former assemblyman (Lihan Jok), Gau asked what had happened to the projects such as mini-dam at Long Seminyang, mini-dam at Long San, and perimeter survey of land at Long Banyok.

These projects were worth hundreds of thousands of ringgit, he said and asked: “Where have they gone?

“Instead of these projects, what we have now are water tanks to collect rain water ,” he said.

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