Nine thousand signatures have been collected from the Baram people of Sarawak who are opposing the proposed dam in their locality.
Started by the Baram Protection Action Committee (BPAC), a coalition set up in 2008, the campaign is now continued by Save Rivers and other volunteers.
The campaign is still going on in order to ensure that all the Baram people who are against the dam have the chance to take part in the campaign.
“With 9,000 signatures collected from those opposing the Baram Dam, there is no doubt that the proposed dam faces strong resistance from the majority of the people,” said a local community leader, TK James Nyurang.
Since 2008, the anti-Baram Dam campaign has received support from almost every village visited by the campaigners in the district, from Long Keseh (down river of the proposed site of the dam) and upriver all the way to Hulu As.
From the beginning, signatures from the campaign have been sent in batches to the state and federal authorities, including the prime minister of Malaysia and the chief minister of Sarawak.
One such handing over of the signatures was done on Sept 19, 2012, to the then chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.
Since the delegation of 60 was not allowed into the chief minister’s office, the document was received on Taib's behalf by his head of security, Zaidi Morshidi.
At a press conference in Miri yesterday, representatives from Baram said that they want to send the signatures to the federal and state authorities again. This time they will include the new signatures that have been collected.
They are also seeking a meeting with current Chief Minister Adenan Satem (left) so that they can personally hand the memorandum to him.
“What could have happened in the past is that the government was listening only to the community leaders and they did not have any chance to hear from the people directly.
“So far, we note, the new chief minister is approachable and he has publicly said he is willing to listen to all. So let us go and see him this time,” said Lah Jok from Long Liam.
Long Liam is one of the villages that will be inundated if the Baram Dam is built.
Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu Numpang in a speech welcoming Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to the Gawai Dayak festival in Long Silat recently said “only three persons oppose the Baram Dam”.
'Incorrect information given'
Lah Jok brushed off Jabu's statement as “incorrect information given by irresponsible community leaders who are not speaking on behalf of the affected people”.
In May this year, reacting to an international campaign against Sarawak’s extravaganza for the building of mega dams, a group of community leaders requested the government to take action against Save Rivers, and especially against Peter Kallang.
The community leaders claimed that Save Rivers has no right to speak against the dam on behalf of the Baram people and a lot of other baseless accusations.
This reaction was brushed off by a former local councillor, Anthony Lawai Karing, who said, “We have been blockading the access roads and stopping works on the clearing of the dam site for nine months now.
“We invite these community leaders to come and have a meeting with us there. They should come and ask us why we are putting up these blockades and listen to us. We are the community and they are supposed to be our leaders. Why are they shying away from their rightful responsibilities?
"Even the building of the blockades in themselves show that the protest against Baram Dam is not just by few people and nor is it being incited by outsiders. We are the ones who manned the blockades because we don’t want the dam.”
Speaking on behalf of Save Rivers, Peter Kallang (left) said, “We will request for a meeting of the Baram people with Chief Minister Adenan Satem and also hand over the signatures collected to him. We hope that this time the government will listen to the people’s voices.
"The date and details of the meeting will be proposed at a meeting among the Baram people.”