Monday, April 14, 2014

No let-up by Sarawak natives who continue to obstruct dam

BY DESMOND DAVIDSON

APRIL 14, 2014
Sarawak natives have been camping out at the site of the proposed Baram dam for almost six months and are disappointed with the new chief minister’s plan to continue his predecessor’s destructive policies of exploiting the land. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, April 14, 2014.Sarawak natives have been camping out at the site of the proposed Baram dam for almost six months and are disappointed with the new chief minister’s plan to continue his predecessor’s destructive policies of exploiting the land. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, April 14, 2014.Sarawak may have a new man at the helm but nothing has changed for the natives at Baram who have been doggedly manning two blockades on the roads leading to the proposed Baram hydroelectric dam for almost six months.
If anything, the natives, fearful of being displaced once construction begins, are determined to persevere in their efforts despite little work currently being done on the dam.
“The morale among those manning the blockades has not dropped despite the fall in activities (on the proposed dam),” Save Rivers Network chairman Peter Kallang said.
The blockades, one near Long Lama and the other at a place locals refer to as “Kilometre 15” near Long Kesseh, are to stop preparatory work on the dam that reportedly would be “slightly bigger” than the 944Mw Murum hydroelectric dam near Belaga.
“They know they have a lot more to lose if they give up now,” he said.
The Baram dam will reportedly generate between 1,000 and 1,200Mw of electricity and if constructed, would flood 400 sq km of tropical rainforest and displace about 20,000 people.
Kallang said manning the blockades has now become “very organised” with the welfare of the protesters looked into, logistical problems overcome and other minor administrative details worked on.
“We now have a roster to ensure everyone has a turn at manning the blockades. We have organised activities to kill their boredom, like having an eat-out at regular intervals to shore up their spirits.
“We have even built proper toilets and bathroom facilities at the blockades.”
Kallang said the makeshift shed which the protesters built as their “home” away from home, looked like a permanent structure now.
“We're in for the long haul,” he said.
The blockade near Long Lama is to prevent the construction of a 150km access road to the dam site while the blockade at Long Kesseh is to prevent Sarawak Energy Bhd contractors’ access to the site.
The non-governmental organisation that Kallang heads claimed the proposed dam was “forced on the people without their required free, prior and informed consent”.
Now that former chief minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, the man behind the plan to build up to 12 large dams to power Sarawak's drive to become an industrial state, is no longer the chief executive, Kallang is preparing to take up the fight with Taib's successor, Tan Sri Adenan Satem.
Adenan's recent statement that the natives resisted the dams because “the people are not aware of the benefits of the hydro dam and are poisoned by NGOs” had riled up Kallang.
“It seems Adenan is either misinformed by his advisers or he is just doing the bidding of his predecessor, Taib Mahmud, who is now the head of state, to continue with his destructive policies of exploiting the land, territories and resources of the natives in Sarawak.”
He said the natives in Baram and at other places that the state government had identified as potential sites like in Limbang, Lawas, Baleh and Pelagus were aware of the destruction brought about by the dams, and the problems faced by the indigenous communities.
“All the hydroelectric dams built in Sarawak over the past decades have proved that the natives who gave way did not benefit from this so-called development,” he said.
The first dam in the state, at Batang Ai, was built in the 1980s and displaced some 3,000 people from 26 longhouses.
Kallang said most have yet to receive their land titles until today.
“Some have died without seeing their promised land,” he said.
“They were promised free electricity and now they have to pay for it like anyone else.”
The second dam was the mammoth Bakun dam, which displaced some 10,000 people who were relocated at Sungai Asap, which Kallang said was an unsatisfactory resettlement area.
He said the land there was not suitable for farming and the area lacked basic infrastructure.
He also said the displaced people were given unreasonable and incomplete compensation and poor quality houses.
The third dam at Murum was completed last year.
Kallang said Adenan would not say what he had said “if he really understands the problems faced by the displaced indigenous community”.
He appealed to Adenan to keep to his promise of his willingness to listen to the people and the problems faced by the indigenous community displaced by the dams. – April 14, 2014.
~ The Malaysian Insider

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