The Penans are peaceful people and if there is any riot, it would be as a result of provocation, says senior lawyer Baru Bian.
KUCHING: Increasing the number of police personnel in Murum Dam where the Penans have been relentlessly mounting blockades to demand that the state government and Sarawak Energy Berhad respect their rights and demands, smells of provocation, according to local lawyer Baru Bian.
Bian, who is also Sarawak’s PKR chief, was concerned with reports that the police will be sending reinforcements to the Murum dam construction site.
Warning the police not to arrest the protesting Penans, Bian said: “I am disturbed to read about the recent development in the Murum Dam issue, that police will be sending in reinforcements from Sibu and Kapit.
“I sense that this is a buildup to the arrest of the Penans who are manning the blockades and am extremely disappointed by the statement by district police chief DSP Bakar Sebau that action could be taken against them under Section 143 or 147 of the Criminal Procedure Code for illegal assembly or taking part in a riot. This is an abuse of the process of the law.
“The Penans are a peaceful people and if there is any riot, it would be as a result of provocation by agents of the dam-builders or the authorities.
“Any arrest of the Penans by the police would in my view be an abuse of the process of the law and I am fully prepared to act for the Penans should they be arrested.”
He noted that state Land Development Minister James Masing had made a statement on Oct 18 that the ‘needs of both parties must be considered on the same level of importance and that the element of force must never be allowed to surface’.
“Let the negotiators on the side of the dam builders take heed of Masing’s words that ‘The people affected by the HEP dams cannot be seen as paying for the needs of the industry’.
“As for the last part of his sentence ‘and vice versa’, I can only say that since the people were not consulted before the project was started and thus did not give informed and prior consent, the authorities and dam-builders are in no position to demand anything from the people.
“Do not add insult to injury by accusing the Penans of being made use of by NGOs.
“This is a typical nonsensical response by the authorities when hit with the fallout from their arrogant and underhanded conduct – blame someone else instead of owning up to their mistakes and making reparation.
“If that does not work, try the bully tactic by threatening arrest,” he said.
Bian, who is the Ba’Kelalan assemblyman said the Penans had a compelling reason for mounting the blockades.
“The land is all that the Penans have and they are entitled to defend it. Do not forget that Assistant Minister Liwan Lagang reported that they have valid reasons to be unhappy.
“In which case what is wrong with concerned groups showing support for their fellow citizens and lending a helping hand?” he asked.