Friday, August 23, 2013

Natives object acquisition of Bakun ‘islands’

Winston Way

August 22, 2013
The Orang Ulu natives who were 'victims' of the inefficient Bakun resettlement exercises claim they have suffered enough.
KUCHING: The Orang Ulu natives from Sungai Asap want the state government to leave the 18 islands in Bakun reservoir alone.
“Don’t touch the island, don’t gazette them” they said through their lawyer-activist Abun Sui Anyit today.
The community comprising the Kayan, Kenyah, Penan and Lahanan groups have objected to the government’s intention to acquire 18 islands at the Bakun reservoir and to gazette them as a national park.
According to Anyit, the natives are objecting to the acquisition because it would extinguish their rights and privileges over their former longhouses which were on native customary rights land in upper Bakun.
“The natives still have rights and privilege over the islands and they don’t want these rights and privileges extinguished.
“At this point I don’t trust the government. We want them to stop the acquisition. We don’t want them to proceed with the national park plans because we have suffered enough,” he said in a text message to FMT.
Earlier Anyit had noted in a statement that they objected to the move “in order for them have heritage and rights to pass to their future generations over the islands’.
“If the government doesn’t heed to our objection, and continues with the gazette then, we urge and demand for the government not to neglect our rights and privileges that we and our future generation still and will continue to practice over the islands within our NCR Territorial Domain (Daleh) in Upper Bakun, Balui,” he said.
The statement also urged that the government recognise their right to hunt, farm, forage for forest produce such as medicines and rattan, cut trees to make boats and to allow them the use of the islands for safety purposes in case of emergency and danger.
It also urged the goverment to allow them to develop eco-tourism activities, build personal houses and venue for religious and heritage purposes for their future generation.
“We also urge the government to give priority to us Orang Ulu, Belaga of any benefit derived from the islands if gazetted by the government.
“We don’t want to be cheated for the second time by the government after the bad experience faced with the Bakun Hidro Electric Project being controlled by outsiders against the promises made by the government,” he said.
The natives claimed they were forced out of their lands in 1998 for the construction of Bakun and forced to resettle elsewhere.
But majority still maintain ties with upper Bakun and frequently return to their old longhouses.
“We still have control over our original place in upper Bakun where our territorial domain (Pemakai Menua in Iban or Daleh in Kayan language) in upper Bakun, Balui until now.
‘We have rights’
During the exodus from their old longhouses to new resettlement, the natives were compensated by the government for part of their NCR lands being submerged by the Bakun Hidro Electric Project reservoir.
“The payment by the government is the evidence that we Kayan, Kenyah, Penan and Lahanan have NCR over our land in Upper Bakun until today.
“But we only received three acres of land for every family affected by the Bakun HEP Project. The three acres of land are not enough for us and our future generation,” said Anyit.
According to Abu, the Orang Ulu community was not informed of the new acquisition and that they were shocked to read about it last month in the local papers.
In the notification dated July 2, the government announced that it had gazetted under the Baleh National Park approximately 66,721 hectares of land and would acquire another 5,528 hectares of land surrounding areas in the 18 islands for Bakun Islands National Park.
“As we are still shocked with the government’s action, therefore we have to take a stand and object to the intention by the government to acquire the 18 islands at the Bakun reservoir as National Park,” Anyit said.
He said the residents were not alone in the decision to object, but also 15 headmen in the Asap Koyan area had also voiced their support.
“All the headmen through their association had meeting and issued a letter of protest against the acquisition of the islands against government on Aug 3, 2013 and read the letter before the Forest Department officers and Belaga District Officer during the briefing by the Forest Department at Asap Community Hall, Belaga.
“The basis of our objection is that we and our ancestors had lived in Ulu Bakun, Balui areas (now Bakun reservoir) since before the Brooke era and British Colony and continue until today,” Anyit said.
~ Free Malaysia Today

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