KUCHING: An NGO here has denied accusations that they are instigating Baram natives into prolonging blockades which they began last year in a bid to stop preparatory works on the proposed Baram hydroelectric dam in the Miri Division.
“What do they mean we are instigating these people? We do not instigate anyone. If some people encroach into their (the natives’) lands, then those should be illegal acts.
“We are supporting them with legal advice, as well as connecting them with lawyers, NGOs and other groups protesting against the building of dams,” said Save Rivers Network Sarawak chairman Peter Kallang.
Kallang said the “natives have their own hands in organising the blockades” in Long Lama and Long Kesseh and the NGO did nothing more than assist them with information.
“We also let them know about the police presence, how to face the police, what to do if any of them are arrested, who to call if arrested, and what to do, and what are their legal rights under the Malaysian Constitution, the United Nations laws and the Sarawak Land Code.,” he said.
Kallang claimed the state government was not listening to the natives’ plights and that the natives “no longer even trust their own community leaders.”
“These community leaders kept on lying to the government that the people of Baram agree to the building of the dam, when actually more than 90 percent are against it,” Kallang said.
Kallang had reportedly said that the blockades were now ‘very structured’ with the welfare of the protesters looked into, logistical challenges overcome and other negligible administrative details worked on.
He was also quoted as saying that the protestors were working on a rosterred routine.
He said blockade at Long Kesseh was given more priority by the natives, with an average of 20 persons manning the blockade at any one time. There were less people at the blockade at Long Lama.
The blockade at Long Kesseh was alternately manned by natives from areas above the proposed Baram dam, that were Long Kesseh itself, Long Pilah, Long Liput, Long Miri, Uma Bawang, while the one in Long Lama was monitored by natives from Long Lama and other areas below the Baram dam site, he said.
“The biggest challenges for the natives were the ignorance by the government officials and the Sarawak Energy Berhad personnel.
“Otherwise, they are doing well in hanging on. In terms of food and other provisions during the blockades, there are no problems. The folks in every villages in Baram are contributing to them, each family is contributing RM1 per month for the purpose,” Kallang told FMTBorneoPlus.
Police monitoring blockades
The blockade near Long Lama is to stop the building of a 150km access road to the dam site, while the other at Long Kesseh was to thwart Sarawak Energy Bhd contractors’ right of entry into the site.
The dam was projected to generate up to1,200 Mw of electricity, and once completed, would inundate 400 square km of rainforest and dislodge about 20,000 people.
On Sunday, Sarawak State Police Commissioner Muhammad Sabtu Osman said police were willing to hold discussions with villagers in an effort to persuade them to end their blockades.
Without identifying any particular blockade, Sabtu said what was imperative was that as long as the villagers involved did not commit any crime, police would not provoke them.
“If we provoke them, the situation will be even more critical. Although there are blockades now, it is still peaceful. So to us, we do not want to provoke anyone,” he told reporters.
It was understood that Sabtu was referring to the Baram Dam blockades.
~ Free Malaysia Today