Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Penans standing firm despite rising waters

theantdaily team
KUCHING: The waters are rising and their villages are in danger of being flooded but the Penans and Kenyahs of Murum valley are not about to let their lifestyle be destroyed by Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB).

SEB is building the Murum Dam and about 100 Penans are standing their ground at the dam site.

According to sources, another six villages have not been resettled yet and they have not agreed to the resettlement arrangements until their terms are met.

There are people living in six settlements in the Murum valley who refuse to move out because of disputes with the state government over the relocation site and compensation issues and will continue protesting.

“Those who decided to move are the ones that are supporting the government. This was also the group that lifted the blockade two weeks ago, much to the disagreement of the Penan and Kenyah communities,” said a source.

The source noted that the weather was bad with heavy rainfall in the interior of Murum and with the impoundment it would not be long before the six villages were under water.

An SEB spokesperson was reported as stating that the impoundment that began over the weekend was expected to take a year for the water to reach enough capacity for the dam to produce power.

Borneo Resources Institute (BRI), a non-governmental organisation concerned about native rights and environmental protection, also expressed concerns about the impoundment.

It stated that the remaining affected villagers’ issues must be resolved and all of them have to be moved out of the dam site to avoid any mishaps as the current situation was dangerous.

The main demand of the tribes blockading the site is for adequate compensation, backed by legally binding guarantees, before they are prepared to relinquish their claim on their land on the nearly completed RM4 billion Murum Dam.

The villagers are essentially demanding RM500,000 and 25 hectares of land for each family, among others.

According to a source, the Penans are being uprooted by the state government from their ancient homelands, which would drive them into settlements far away from their traditional sources of food and income.

“In return, the authorities are offering a vague promise of a monthly payment for each family amounting to merely half the national minimum wage [RM800], which will expire after four years.

~ The Ant Daily

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