Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Human rights groups fret over fate of protesting Penans at Murum Dam site


Updated: Tuesday November 5, 2013 MYT 10:38:00 AM
A police blockade being set up at the entry point into Murum Dam after more than 200 Penans staged a protest against the Murum hydro-electric dam project. - Pic by Raymond Abin
A police blockade being set up at the entry point into Murum Dam after more than 200 Penans staged a protest against the Murum hydro-electric dam project. - Pic by Raymond Abin
MIRI: Human rights activists are worried over the fate of some 200 Penans protesting at the Murum Dam site in interior central Sarawak who are running out of food.
Police have "cordoned off" the area near where the protesters are camping.
Representatives of Borneo Resources Institute (Brimas) and Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (SCRIPS) were in Murum the last few days to visit the Penans but found themselves unable to enter.
Brimas state coordinator Raymond Abin and SCRIPS secretary Michael Jok went there on separate occasions and told The Star Online that they were stopped from passing through the police barricade.
Jok, a former Catholic priest turned social activist, said on Monday that he and several officials were trying to deliver food to the Penans.
"Police have set up a roadblock preventing people from entering the Murum Dam site where the Penans are protesting against a hydro-electric project.
"We went into Murum in two 4WD vehicles filled with food rations over the past week. We wanted to give the food to the Penans, who are manning the blockade day and night.
"However, the access road leading to the protest site has been barricaded by a police team at the entry point.
"We have to leave the food at the place where the police blocked the road with a makeshift barricade.
"We asked the police to help get in touch with some of the protesting Penans to come and get the food.
"They agreed to that arrangement," Jok said after he made his way out of Murum, which is about 300kms from Bintulu town.
Abin said he took pictures at the police barricade.
"I tried to pass through the police blockade but was told that nobody is allowed in unless with permission for official business.
"I heard that the protesting Penans may set up blockades at other points along the road into the Murum Dam soon.
"They may be tired and hungry but they are determined to fight for their cause even though they are facing harsh weather conditions staying in makeshift camps," he said.
The Penans are from the remaining four settlements in the Murum Valley who are protesting the move to uproot them to resettlement schemes.
So far, three groups of Penans and Kenyahs have already agreed to move out of Murum Valley to the Tegulang Resettlement Scheme.
Abin and Jok appealed to the state government to again look into the grouses of the remaining Murum Penans who have yet to agree to the relocation plan.
Murum is located some 550km south of Miri and the protests there are by the Penans.
In Ulu Baram, the protests are being staged by more than 300 natives from the Kenyah, Kayan and Penan communities against the proposed Baram Dam site located between Long Kesseh and Long Naah some 200km inland from Miri.
~ The Star

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