Native rights NGO Save Sarawak's Rivers Network (Save Rivers) has again refuted Belaga state assemblyperson Liwan Lagang's claim that the Murum dam blockade had been lifted.

NONEWhen contacted, Save Rivers chairperson Peter Kallang (right) said some of the natives manning the blockade had returned to their villagers to deal with the government which has agreed to pay compensation for their grave sites.

However, he added that a handful of villagers are still at the blockade.

"It is not true. Liwan has told the people that they will get compensation for their grave sites so they went to collect money but there is still a group of Penan, most from around the dam site, still manning the blockade.

"I just received this update only an hour ago from Murum, it is still on," he told Malaysiakini when contacted.

Peter explained that Liwan had brought a group of Penan leaders to Bintulu last week for negotiations and they subsequently agreed that the blockade be lifted, though there were no guarantees that the villagers on the ground would agree to do so.

"That's the case for now - the blockade is on even though some have gone back. There are about 10 people there," he said.

'Decision on blockade soon'

However, Peter said the villagers will decide tonight as to whether the blockade will continue.

"They (villagers and government) will be having a meeting tonight so they will clarify and get feedback on the negotiation. We will see tomorrow if there is any new development," he said.

NONEBorneo Post had on Oct 8 quoted Liwan, who is the appointed mediator between the Penan and Sarawak government, as saying that the blockade had been lifted but this was deniedby Save Rivers two days later.

Malaysiakini which despatched a team of journalists there early last week had confirmed that the blockade was still in force.

However, according to a Bernama report, Liwan had today disclosed at the Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) supreme council meeting in Sibu that the blockade had been dismantled.

Later, when speaking to reporters, party president James Jemut Masing said the government had agreed to seriously look into the Penan request involving land and compensation issues.

"We must understand the Penans are a very reasonable group of people. Again, just because they are Penan, they are being closely watched by the international community.

NONE"So, the government must handle this matter seriously and we must look after their socio-economic standing, said the state land development minister.

On Sept 26, between 200 and 300 Penans, together with some Kenyah Badeng from eight settlements - directly or indirectly affected by the dam - took part in the blockade at Sungai Seping, the entrance to the RM3 billion Murum Dam construction site.

The Murum dam project will affect a total of eight native communities and they have set up blockades near the dam site since Sept 25.

The natives are demanding, among others, 25 hectares of land for each of the 300 families there on top of RM500,000 compensation per family.

~ Malaysiakini