Indigenous communities celebrate 100 days of the Baram dam blockade
Protestors mark day 100 of the Baram dam blockade
BARAM dam blockades have entered their 100th day today as villagers affected by the dam vow to continue to protect their ancestral lands from the building of the proposed RM4bil hydroelectric dam.
Hundreds of villagers, on a rotation basis, have manned two blockade sites – KM15 and Long Lama for the past 99 days with only one common objective in mind – to stop Baram dam.
No heavy machineries to carry out any work on the dam were spotted during this period. Neither did the relevant authority nor BN representatives try to talk to the villagers to hear their plights.
The only time Sarawak Energy Berhad personnel entered the area was before Christmas last year to deliver “bribe money” of some RM3,000 to selected leaders of affected villages.
“We would like to thank members of the public and many organisations who had provided food and other resources to support the blockade. It is not an easy fight but we will not give up,” said SAVE River chairman Peter Kallang today.
To harvest crops on their valued lands, villagers are taking turns to maintain the blockades with about 20 people on site each day.
“The government doesn’t seem to want to listen to us at all. All bargaining is useless and pointless. Because only one man – the chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud controls everything. We hope the local leaders will not be fooled and do not try to spilt us.”
Last Saturday, a Penghulu had called for a meeting for six villages located at the downstream of the proposed Baram dam.
The six villages are Long Keseh, Long Pila, Long Miri, Uma Bawang, Long Laput and Sungai Dua. Part of their lands will be used to construct access road to the proposed dam.
Mering Ibau, Penghulu from Uma Bang, asked three representatives from each village to attend the meeting, to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed dam. He also asked the villagers to state their demands should the Baram Dam is built.
“I was not invited but I went to the meeting. Majority of the people made it very clear that they do not want the dam as they do not want to lose their land. The villages are left out from the development of the main roads also. There is no road to connect to the villages.”
From the experience of Bakun and Murum dam, the people living below the dam also never enjoy electricity supply although the hydro dam is located nearby.
The people in Baram area, living downstream of the dam, although not displaced by the dam, should not be hoodwinked by the state government.
“Trying to bargain is indirectly supporting the idea of the dam. I hope the local leaders can listen to the people and do not try to spilt the people,” said Peter.
The Baram Dam project has been approved by the state government and is located between Long Naah and Long Kesseh, some 200km inland from Miri.
Some 20,000 indigenous people from 26 villages will be displaced by the Baram dam. The villages are Long Na’ah, Long Liam, Long Tebangan, Long Anyat, Ba Keluan, Long Beky, Long Luding, Long Item, Long Dilo, Long Lutin, Long Kawi, Long Segayang, Ba Abang/ Long Sepatai, Long San, Long Tao, Long Selatong Dikan, Long Selatong Tanjung Tepalit, Long Apu, Long Julan, Long Julan Pelutan, Long Anap, Long Palai, Long Silat, Long Selawan, Long Se’eh and Long Makaba.
After exposure to the weather for 100 days, the tents accommodating the blockaders are starting to leak badly and they are in the process of improving their camp with materials which are more durable.
For queries, please refer to Peter Kallang, Chairman of SAVE Rivers – (H/Phn 013 833 1104)