30th October 2013
Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) has been issuing “Blanket Statement” with regards to payment of compensation to the Penan communities affected by Murum dam hydroelectric project (MDHEP) in Belaga District, Sarawak.
SEB claims that the affected Penan communities stand to receive over RM600,000 per family in longhouse and infrastructure facilities as well as compensation upon being resettled. In summing up, SEB stated that “for longhouse and infrastructure facilities alone, the cost involved is RM213.3 million and this translates to more than RM600,000 per household.
Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS) has conveyed the news accordingly to the affected Penans in Murum about the so-called payment of compensation as widely claims by SEB. The Penans were shocked with such claims which to them are all rubbishes.
With this, BRIMAS would like to clarify several points regarding the so-called payment of compensation to the Penan communities affected by Murum dam hydroelectric project (MDHEP). These facts will hopefully clear the misinformation and manipulative communication that were being issued by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) which simply mean to mislead the affected Penan communities and the general public.
According to the Penan they have no knowledge at all about the RM213.3 million, the cost of longhouse and infrastructure facilities which has being accounted as compensations without their consent. Many of the Penans argued that the government has assured them of the longhouses, infrastructure facilities and any amenities at the Metalun and Tegulang Resettlement site are built free for them without any charges for the well-being and betterment of their community. The Penan are saddened and regrettable indeed that the government failed to abide by the assurance made earlier.
They questioned the sincerity of the state government and SEB which always claim to be transparent in all matters relating to Murum Dam project when the so-called RM213.3 million cost of development being accounted as compensations that have been shrouded in secrecy.
Mr Ngang Buling, Chairman of Peliran-Murum Penan Affairs (PEMUPA) Committee vehemently refuted such claims as there is no truth in the said news. He said that none of the Penan has ever received such huge amount of cash compensation for loss of their lands, burial grounds, houses, crops, traditional forest resources, and etc.
Ngang added, “If it is true that the Sarawak state government and SEB have paid or agree to pay us the amount of compensation as stated in their demands, hence there would be no persistent and on-going road blockades and protest at Murum dam site by the Penan”.
On 16th October, the Penan representatives were called to a meeting in Bintulu town with YB Liwan Lagang, the Asst. Minister of Culture and Heritage (also the State Assemblyman for Belaga), Mr. Abdul Halim, the Belaga District Officer and the personnel of the Kapit Divisional Resident Office as well as the SEB representatives. At the meeting the Penan were told that they are offered only RM16,000 in compensation per family, which they have straight away rejected.
Village Headman TK. Abok Jalong slammed SEB’s statement that alleged the Penan being instigated by NGOs to remain at the Murum dam site in order to pressure the government with their additional demands of RM500,000 cash compensation.
It is most unwelcoming to note “the arrogant attitude of SEB for accusing the Penan being instigated by NGOs where the Penan are just exercising their rights to be heard when they had been sideline and their plight continuously taken for granted”.
Headman TK. Abok condemned such wild allegations that belittle them of their fundamental rights to speak up for themselves and their prerogative to demands for just and fair compensations. He clarified that the Penan have not make any additional demands but has been consistent in their demands to the government including the RM500,000 cash compensation per family.
Further, Headman TK. Abok pointed out that among their demands are 25 hectares of farming land for each of the Penan families affected by the dam; 30,000 hectares of forest area as communal reserve to each of the seven affected Penan villages; 10% royalty of Murum Dam revenues, education fund for their children; community development fund for the Penan community; and ownership rights to land and forest area which are not flooded (islands created) by the MDHEP.
BRIMAS is very perturbed by such blanket statement of Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) that tantamount to confuse and mislead the general public on the amount of compensation to be received by the Penan. It seems that SEB failed to understand and differentiate between the issue of just, fair and equitable compensation and the development costs of Murum Resettlement project.
Even a layman knows that the RM213.3 million are the costs expensed related to development and construction of structural buildings, infrastructures and amenities facilities at the Metalun and Tegulang Resettlement sites for the affected Penan villages.
BRIMAS opines that the Sarawak state government and SEB should be solely responsible and account for the development costs of the Murum Resettlement sites rather than surreptitiously included these costs as compensation package of the Penan.
BRIMAS sees this as very unfair treatment and unethical deed of SEB and the state government for not genuinely engaging and consulting the affected Penans at all level of the community on the entitlement and right to compensation matters.
All this while, the affected Penan communities have forwarded their demands very clearly to the state government where they simply demand just, fair and equitable compensation for losses of ancestral land, properties, burial grounds and forest areas arising from the acquisition of their land by the government to make way for the construction of Murum dam hydroelectric project.
Raymond Abin, Regional Coordinator of Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS) strongly support the demands of the affected Penan communities to be entitled to "full compensation" so that they are left in a no worse position, than they were before the Murum Dam project commenced. This means that the Penan will not be deprived of their land without just, fair and equitable compensation.
At present there are more than 200 Penan families on rotational basis manning road blockades, protesting and encamped at the Murum dam project site since 20th September. These families are from the Penan villages of Long Luar, Long Tangau, Long Menapa and Long Singu in Pleiran River of upper Murum area.
Raymond Abin sees the protests as a positive movement as the Penan are not violent and only exercising their rights to call on government for negotiation on terms to their demands peacefully.
As stated in Article 13 of the Federal Constitution the government has a legal liability to compensate the Penan for properties lost and acquisition of their land for the construction of Murum Dam hydroelectric project.
Raymond appeals to the government and SEB not to take an ostrich stand on these Penan’s demands and compensation issue by hiding its head in the sand and assume that there is no problem if they don’t see it.
“The Penan will continue to assert their demands until the government holds genuine consultation and negotiation with them to agree on terms to their demands that may resolve the on-going impasse at Murum dam site”.
Raymond Abin expressed dismay that the state government and SEB purportedly pretending not to know the demands of the affected Penan communities. And hope that the government will not continue to be silent, let’s take the bull by the horn and face the consequences, whatever their demands are - all reasonable that shall guarantees toward sustainable livelihoods for them.
The state government and SEB should not forget that the Penan have sacrifices everything - their lives, lands and properties for MDHEP and the development Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).
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For further information, kindly call:-
Raymond Abin (013 8449345)
Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com
Note: Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that advocating Indigenous Peoples rights and environmental justice in Malaysia as well as the Island of Borneo. It is a Malaysian based NGO in Miri, Sarawak.