Kenyah natives, who've been left out of the Murum resettlement and compensation exercise are now demanding their rights.
KUCHING: The Kenyah community in Murum, who’ve been in the backend whilst the Penans waged a widely reported ‘war’ against the ongoing contruction of the hydroelectric dam project, have now come out to accuse the state government and Sarawak Energy Board (SEB), the main contractor, of failing to compensate them for the land.
They claimed SEB, which is a state government-linked company, took their native customary rights land (NCR) but “did not pay them a single sen in compensation”.
The community’s advisor-cum-lawyer Abun Sui Anyit said the the Murum dam project affected more than just the Penan community.
“The Murum Dam in Belaga, Sarawak does not only affect the Penan indigenous people but also native Kenyah, who own the native customary right (NCR) land where the resettlement scheme houses were built by SEB at Tekulang.
“These lands belonged to Kenyah woman Piu Salok, and Kenyah men Damai Wan, Eduel Bilong, Suling Salo and many others from the Kenyah Badeng community.
“SEB simply grabbed the lands from these Kenyah farmers without their consent, and without paying them a single sen of compensation until today,” Anyit said in a statement.
He said the Kenyah farmers have been protesting against the land grab since the early stages of SEB’s survey of the project site which now houses a resettlement scheme.
Describing these landowners as “victims”, Anyit said the community has been patiently waiting for SEB to compensate them especially since the resettlement scheme was completed.
“But the SEB is now waiting to house the Penan community instead..the Kenyah Badeng community are still waiting,” he said.
Anyit statement also quoted Damai Wan’s wife who asked why the state government was acting “without sympathy”.
“The world is no more a place of hope for us here, the poor farmers of Murum. We feel that the government is very cruel against us.
”Why the government is acting like there is no sympathy in their hearts for poor farmers like us, who owned the lands. We are the victims of Murum Dam,” she said.
Last September, the issue once again resurfaced in the media after a group of Penans erected blockades along road leading to the Murum Dam project site.
Although the community denied a compromise with the authorities, state Culture and Heritage Assistant Minister Liwan Lagang reportedly claimed in November that he had met with the Penan leaders in Bintulu and managed to persuade them to dismantle their 10-day bloackades and take to the negotiation table..
In their negotiation with the government, the nine Penan and one Kenyah villages affected by the impoundment of the dam requested to be resettled at Tekulang and Metalun, which was close to the dam.
Lagang also said more than RM4 million had been paid to affected communities to perform the ‘Pemali Kubur’, a ceremony to conciliate their ancestors’ spirit.
“The government is serious in helping them. We want to make sure they have a better life than what they have now. The problem for now is that they do not see this development,” Liwan had said.
The so-called ‘arrangement’ had come just weeks after an earlier negotiation between the Penans and the Sarawak government failed.