Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Baram Dam: Tengah plays with words

FMT Staff

November 26, 2013
Senior Minister Awang Tengah Ali Hassan claims the compensation demanded by the Penans is unreasonable and illogical.
KUCHING: The Sarawak government claims it has “not finalised” the implementation of the Baram project and has urged the communities not to listen to rumours and be unduly worried.
Public Utilities Minister Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said feasibility studies were still underway but no decision have been made.
He said among the various investigations included a Social Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) study.
“In the event that the project materialised, the Barisan Nasional government will ensure that the affected communities are duly engaged and consulted,” he told the Sarawak Legislative Assembly sitting here yesterday.
He was responding to questions raised by Pujut assemblymen Fong Pau Teck about the Baram hydro-power project.
Tengah’s statement comes amid reports that ongoing blockades and protests by the local native communities had brought “vital” groundwork on the project site to a standstill and forced the state government to compensate contractors.
The state government has come under attack over the proposed Baram Dam.
Many believe there there was no need for yet another dam in Sarawak.
The state already has three dams – Batang Ai, Bakun and Murum – all built under contentious circumstances.
The latest is the Murum Dam, which has again generated global anger over the “mistreatment”, “discrimination” and displacement of native Penan and Kenyah communities.
The Penans, who are demanding that their compensation demands are met, have been mounting blockades at the entry to the Murum Dam site. The situation has reached a stand-off point with police severing access to food, water, medicines and assistance.

Blockades in Baram
According to Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), “the human rights situation at the Murum Dam has been criticised for a while, but now the conflict has spread further and reached the area of the planned Baram Dam. In both areas, affected communities are manning blockades.”
Yesterday another US-based 29-member global coalition calling themselves The Borneo Project delivered to Malaysian ambassadors in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, UK and USA letters urging the Sarawakian and Malaysian governments to resolve in “good faith” the predicament of 1,500 Penans from seven villages in the area.
The same coalition had earlier sent a letter to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak urging him to ‘protect’ the Penans.
Responding to these calls, , Awang Tengah told the Sarawak DUN that the demand made by a small group of natives were “unreasonable and illogical” as the Murum resettlement programme involving the displaced communities had been planned and implemented properly.
He said the consultations with the affected communities in Murum had begun in the “early years” of the Murum project “during the preliminary design stage”.
“This is clearly shown by the fact that the dam design and location were altered based on the advice of the affected communities to preserve the site where the Penan’s sacred rock (Batu Tungun) is situated,” he said during his winding up speech yesterday.

‘Government spends RM1.2 mil per family’
He said the government spends and average RM1.2 million on each household affected by the Murum project.
He said the government providing the displaced community with better housing complete with basic amenities and had made provisions for roads, schools, clinics and places of worship in Tegulang and Metalun after extensive engagement with the communities.
“They are also given a re-location assistance of RM15,000 per household, monthly income support equivalent to RM850 per household for up to three years and a land allocation of 15 hectares for cash-crop plantation.
In addition, the state government, he said, allowed the natives access to forage and hunt in 20,000 hectares of reserved forests.
The Penans are demanding that the government compensate them with RM500,000 per household, 25 hectares of land, RM3,000 monthly assistance per family and a 10% royalty on the electricity revenue from the Murum Dam.
They also want 30,000 hectares of land to be set aside as communal forest for the villagers.
~ Free Malaysia Today

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