KUCHING: Norway’s indigenious Sami community which battled the government’s plan in the 1970s and 1980s to build a dam have urged Sarawak natives to “keep fighting” against the state government’s plan to build 12 mega dams to support former Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s pet project – Sarawak Corridor for Renewable Energy (SCORE).
Sami community representative Tore Bongo said their struggle against the construction of the Alta dam had gone down in history as the “turning point” in the Norwegian government’s policy towards the indigenous community.
“You must not be afraid to fight. You need to be willing to negotiate, but above all, you need to fight,” Bogo told the Sarawak anti-dams and Save Rivers delegation who met with the in Karasjok, Norway.
The delegation was at the tailend of their two week campaign in Europe to highlight the plight of Sarawak native communities displaced by the construction of dams and to generate support to stop further similar developements.
Bogo’s advise comes against a backdrop of a slew of pro-dam decisions made by Sarawak Enegry Berhad’s controversial Norwegian CEO Torstein Sjotveit, seen as the ‘henchman’ of Taib who was yesterday conferred with the nation’s highest title ‘Tun’. Taib who stepped down as political head of Sarawak on Feb 28 is now the state Governor and ‘invisible’ hand in SCORE.
Explaining further, Bogo said the community’s 1970s uprising resulted in the considerable reduction in the size of the dam and the “government started to respect the Sami’s rights as indigenous people.”
He said many new laws were established since the Alta struggle, allowing the Sami community to live and develop their culture and traditions.
In 1989, the Sami community established their own Parliament in Karasjok.
According to a statement issued by the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) the exchange between Save Rivers delegation and the Sami community “very fruitful”.
“Indigenous peoples in both countries have faced similar threats to their land, tradition and culture.
“In Norway, however, things have changed to the better for the Sami, while the traditional livelihoods of Sarawak’s indigenous peoples remain precarious and discriminated,” noted BMF.
The statement also quoted Save Rivers chief Peter Kallang as saying that he was impressed at the Norwegian government’s commitment to protecting the culture and rights of the indigenous minority Sami native community.
“The government really allows the Sami to determine their way of life,” he said.
Another member of the delegation Maria Ajang said she was impressed at how strongly the Sami have fought to protect their culture, language and land.
“They never hesitated, but fought for their future,” she said.
Her views were echoed by another delegation member Lah Jok who added that the Malaysian government should “respect the rights of the indigenous peoples just as the Norwegian government does.”
~ Free Malaysia Today