The Sarawak government-owned Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) started the impoundment of the RM4 billion Murum dam at Ulu Belaga yesterday, ignoring the plight of the Penans from six villages who are currently mounting a blockade.

“More than 100 Penans from Long Wat, Long Luar, Long Tangau, Long Menapa, Long Singu and Long Malim which are upstream of Murum river have since last week erected a blockade protesting against the failure of the government to fulfil its promises as SEB, the owner of Murum dam, started the impoundment on Sunday,” said Raymond Abin, national coordinator of the Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (SCANE).

It will take at least a year for the water to reach enough capacity for the Murum dam to produce power.

NONE“The Penans have not only refused to move, but also have erected a blockade unless their demands are met,” Abin (left) told Malaysiakini

The demands include RM500,000 per family for loss of lands and villages,  25  hectares to be allocated to each family, a forest area of  30,000 hectares, a 10 percent royalty from the Murum dam and that all areas which are not submerged belong to the Penans.

In a meeting early this month, the government had rejected all their claims, saying that there was no such thing as RM500,000 per family.

“The government is prepared to compensate each family with RM10,000 only for loss of land and  properties, and at the same time it will give them financial assistance of RM800 per family per month for the next three years.

NONE“And for the subsequent two years, the government will assist them with RM500 per month per family.

“After that, the government may stop the monthly assistance if the Penans have a better life and are able to support themselves with the crops that they have planted.

“To me this is a bad policy and will fail to make Penans self-reliant,” said Abin, pointing out that the Penans had rejected the government’s offer.

“Thus, the Penans are erecting the blockade under the watchful eyes of the police and soldiers,” he said.

Open memorandum to Najib and Taib

Abin said the Penans have submitted an open memorandum to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud highlighting the issues that need the government’s attention.
azlanIn the memorandum, they do not want to face the problems that have been haunting the people displaced by the Bakun and Batang Ai dams. 

The Murum HEP dam will require the forced relocation of about 1,500 Penans as well as the 18 Kenyah-Badeng families in Long Umpa village near Long Malim in Danum River, on the upper course of Murum River.
The Murum project involves the construction of a 944MW hydroelectric dam which is 141 metres high or 547 metres above sea level, and its width is 75 metres.
It will flood 24,500 hectares of customary land and forest of the Penan villages.
The Murum dam is the first of 12 mega dams that the Sarawak government would build in the next 30 years.