KUCHING (Oct 24, 2012): Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian said yesterday that he will volunteer his legal service to help the Penans if they are arrested by the police for erecting blockades on access roads to the Murum dam.
"I am prepared to act for them should they be arrested," he said when responding to a statement by Belaga district police chief Deputy Superintendent Bakar Sebau on Monday.
Bakar had said that the police would take action against the Penans, numbering about 320, for illegal assembly and "taking part in a riot."
The Penans, from eight villages in Belaga district, have mounted the blockades on two roads since Sept 26 in the efforts to stop the construction of the RM3 billion Murum dam by the State Government.
The 944MW dam is scheduled to be completed by 2014.
Baru, who is also the Ba'Kelalan State Assemblyman, said that he was disturbed by recent developments concerning the dam, including the move by the police to send reinforcement from Sibu and Kapit to the blockading sites.
"I sense that this is a build-up to the arrest of the Penans. They are a peaceful people and if there is any riot, it will 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," he said.
Baru added that the Penans were mounting the blockades because they had never been consulted by the government before the construction of the dam began.
"It is an insult to say that they are being made use of by the non-governmental organisations. This is a typical nonsensical response by the authorities when hit with the fallout from their arrogance and underhanded conduct, blaming someone else instead of owning up to their mistakes and making reparation," he said.
Baru also questioned why the government was not willing to compensate the Penans adequately for the loss of their properties, land and their heritage.
"With the billions that the government is expected to make from the dam, we find it incomprehensible that they are having difficulty in doing the right thing for the people who have been made to sacrifice their homes," he said.