A dialogue session was orchestrated to give the impression that all those who spoke agreed with the dam, reports SAVE Rivers.
Participants at a workshop signalling their strong opposition to the dam – File photograph: SAVE Rivers
MIRI – Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu was again misleading the people; he was quoted in the Borneo Post (10 March 2013, ‘Aye for proposed Baram HEP – Jabu‘) as saying that “community leaders and representatives in Baram are all for the proposed Baram Hydroelectric Dam Project”.
Save Sarawak Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) is refuting Jabu’s statement as we know that reliable sources who were present at the dialogue session with Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud in Miri last Friday (8 March 2013) are saying otherwise.
Most of the participants who were at the dialogue session were from the Federation of Orang Ulu Associations Malaysia (Forum) and civil servants. Not all of the community leaders directly affected by the proposed dam were present. As for those community leaders who were present, they are not directly affected by the proposed dam.
The dialogue was arranged in a way that only selected people were given the chance to speak and it was orchestrated to give the impression that all those who spoke agreed with the dam. Those who spoke were Hassan Sui, Gerawat Gala, Temenggong Pahang Ding, Lucas Kallang and Charlie Avit.
Of the five people who spoke, only Lucas Kallang is directly affected by the proposed dam as he is from Long Julan. The rest of the speakers are not directly affected or are not from Baram District.
During the dialogue, Taib admitted that the government had made mistakes during the implementation of the Bakun Hydroelectric Dam project and he put the blame on the federal government for not providing enough funds for the resettlement exercise.
Taib said the state government is learning from past mistakes and this time around they would make the proposed Baram HEP project better.
But SAVE Rivers is very sceptical about Taib’s statement as the state government is repeating the same mistakes in the Bengoh and Murum Dam projects. There is no guarantee that they will not repeat the same mistakes in the proposed Baram Dam.
The state government is again making the same mistakes in the proposed Baram Dam project i.e. there is not much information about the proposed project and no proper consultation with the people directly affected; no Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) has been done yet, but construction of the access road to the Baram Dam has already begun construction; and people directly affected are asked to fill in forms with pencil, the contents about which they have no or limited knowledge.
After the dialogue session, there was no indication from the floor that everyone gave their ‘thumbs up’” to the proposed dam like what Jabu was suggesting in the Borneo Post The participant’s attendance list cannot be a gauge for the people’s support for the project.
While the dialogue was held inside a prominent hotel in Miri, a group of about 70 protesters from Baram, Suai and Niah protested to voice their displeasure towards the Chief Minister on the proposed Baram Dam. The protesters shouted “Stop Baram Dam”, “Don’t grab our lands” and demanded that the government look into the issue of undocumented citizens i.e. citizens with no birth certificates and identity cards.
Last year, Jabu together with Forum president Gerawat Gala and Temenggong Pahang, tried to mislead the people of Baram by making sweeping statements (Borneo Post, 18 May 2012, ‘Community support for Baram Dam‘), saying that the people affected by the proposed Baram HEP had collectively agreed to the project.
This statement was met with strong criticism and opposition from the people directly affected by the proposed dam as well as civil society organisations.