Penan tribesmen from Sarawak appeal to the Norwegian King to protect them from a Norwegian hydropower executive - Sarawak Energy CEO, Torstein Dale Sjøtveit, pushes forward plans to flood the Borneo rainforest
(OSLO, Norway / BARAM, Sarawak, Malaysia) 600 Penan tribesmen of Sarawak, Malaysia, are turning to the Norwegian King for help in their struggle to defend their rainforests. The Penan are appealing to King Harald V to call one of his subjects home to Norway. Norwegian national, Torstein Dale Sjøtveit, is the CEO of Sarawak Energy, a company that is planning to flood the Penan’s traditional rainforests with several highly controversial hydropower dams.
“If Mr. Sjøtveit wishes to build hydro-dams, let him do it in Norway, or wherever he is welcome. But he has no right to come from Norway to Sarawak and destroy our lives and our rainforests”, write the Penan in their appeal to the Norwegian monarch. The letter has been signed by the heads of eight villages and over 600 tribesmen from Sarawak’s Baram region.
The Penan also accuse Mr. Sjøtveit of being complicit in the corruption of the Sarawak state government under Chief Minister Taib Mahmud. “Sarawak Energy is owned by the state of Sarawak but without Mr. Sjøtveit’s knowledge, our corrupt state government would not be able to build the dams that are set to destroy our forests, our livelihoods and our communities. “ Taib Mahmud’s family businesses have received several contracts linked to the state’s dam plans.
The planned Baram Dam would not only flood a number of Penan villages but would displace up to 20,000 natives and submerge 400km2 of rainforest and farmland. In 2012, a number of native communities from the Baram region wrote to Mr. Dale Sjøtveit to express their concerns but their appeal went unheeded.
The Penan, who have been living in the Borneo rainforest for centuries as hunter-gatherers, have been sidelined by Malaysia's controversial development policies.
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