The natives want the government to pay interest on delayed payment of compensation.
KUCHING: Residents of the Bakun Resettlement Scheme (BRS) in Sungai Asap and Sungai Koyan in Belaga, Kapit have filed a suit against the Sarawak government for failing to pay interest on the compensation for the loss of their original longhouses.
They named the Kapit Land and Survey Department superintendent and the Sarawak government as the first and second defendants.
The Kayans, Kenyah, Ibans, Lahanans, Ukits and Penans were previously residents of the longhouses known as Long Gang, Long Jawe, Long Bulan, Batu Keling, Batu Kali, Long Ayak (Ukit), Uma Daro, Uma Juman, Uma Balui Liko, Penan Talun, Lahanan, Uma Kelap, Uma Belor, Uma Nyaving, and Uma Bawang.
The natives from the 15 original longhouses are claiming that they are legally entitled to be paid an annual interest at the rate of eight percent in respect to the total compensation paid by the defendants for the their longhouses from September 1998 until April 14, 2011 and/or Sept 6, 2012.
The summon stated that the Sarawak state government, in order to make possible the implementation of the Bakun Hydro Electric Project (HEP), “directed and required” the natives to vacate or abandon their respective houses in consideration of full payment of compensation to be paid for their loss.
The payment was supposed to be paid as soon as they vacated their houses and settled in BRS in Sungai Asap and Sungai Koyan, Belaga.
The natives and their family members had done so in September 1998, “in compliance with the directive, requirement, promises and/or understanding made by the defendants”.
Despite this they said the state government and Land and Survey Department had failed to pay the compensation to them until April 14, 2011.
At that point the natives were paid only 50%. They received the balance compensation on Sept 6, 2012.
The natives also claimed that “the failure” of the defendants to pay all the compensation to them in 1998 when they vacated their houses, and settled at the BRS area, constituted a “monetary debt or arrears” owed to them.
The natives were represented by lawyer-activist Abun Sui Anyit.
During the Sarawak state assembly sitting in May, Second Finance Minister Wong Soon Koh stated that RM19.6 million was required as compensation for Bakun Resettlement Scheme Project under the then-approved Supplementary Supply (2012) Bill, 2013.
In a local daily today, a spokesperson for one of the longhouses, Ujang Bengo said the they were required to vacate their houses to make way for the Bakun HEP in 1998.
“In September 1998, we accordingly vacated our longhouses to settle at Bakun Resettlement Scheme (BRS) Area in Sg Asap and Sg Koyan, Belaga.
“The government agreed to give full compensation with an eight per cent annual interest to each family (per door). We received 50 per cent of the compensation only on April 14, 2011 and the remaining 50 per cent on Sept 6, 2012,” Ujang said.
“If we are paid accordingly, we can always make full use of the money, maybe do some business.
“But we only get our compensation after 13 years, and that is only the capital, where is our annual eight per cent interests?” headded.
In a press release today, Anyit said that in August, the natives from Sungai Asap had objected to the government’s intention to acquire 18 islands at the Bakun reservoir to be gazette as a national park.
“We objected to the acquisition because we still have rights and privilege over the islands and we don’t want our rights and privileges extinguished and/or affected at our former longhouses NCR lands in upper Bakun,” said Anyit.
He said the natives also urged the government to consider the reason for their objection against the acquisition which was “in order for them have heritage and rights to pass to their future generations over the islands’.