Sunday, June 29, 2014

Suhakam hears and sees empty promises made to Murum Penans

Last updated on 29/06/2014 - 19:05
29/06/2014 - 18:00
Anna Chidambar

KUCHING: The plight of the suffering Penans who had to make way for the Murum Dam in Sarawak has been reconfirmed by Suhakam commissioner James Nayagam.
Nayagam who visited the displaced community recently managed to witness first-hand the horrendous situation they are in and the “empty promises” made to the Penans by the state government.
For starters, the Suhakam commissioner acknowledged that the access road to the resettlement areas was in deplorable condition. When it rained, it became inaccessible even to 4WD vehicles to ferry the children to school.
One of the most obvious results of the poor road condition during rainy weather was the high absenteeism of students at the primary school SMK Tegulang which is located a few kilometres away from the settlement.
According to Nayagam, the headmaster and assistant headmaster of the school told him about high absenteeism among pupils due to the unsafe roads during a heavy downpour and had proposed that a hostel be built near the school to overcome the problem. Currently, there are 120 children and 15 teachers in the school
The disgruntled community at the two resettlement areas of Metalun and Tegulang voiced their list of grievances which included lack of schooling facilities, inadequate infrastructure, pathetic living conditions and lack of a proper access road to the Suhakam commissioner.
Nayagam’s visit, facilitated by Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB), was to enable Suhakam to make hands-on evaluation of the real conditions in the resettlement areas.
Save Rivers chairman Peter Kallang, who has been highlighting the plight of the communities that have been displaced and are being threatened by the ongoing HEP dam building activities in Sarawak, said that Suhakam’s visit was positive.
“We are happy that the team from Suhakam can see the problems with their own eyes and tell the world about it. This is tangible evidence that all the grand promises made by the government are just rhetoric to hoodwink the people in order to make sure that the dams are built.
“We have visited the people in the resettlement areas and we know that they have a litany of complaints and I can’t understand why their plight is being ignored. If the Murum dam is an example of all future dams in Sarawak, it is a scary prospect. The Murum settlements are just another example of broken promises and shabby management,” he added.
“People in Baram must never be duped by all the glorious promises of better livelihood in the so-called ‘Bandar Baru’ which is made to sound like the mythical Shangri-La. But as proven from the past dams, the government is not sincere in fulfilling its promises. All it wants is to get rid of the villages and villagers and use their ancestral land to build mega dams”, Kallang warned.
Sadly but inevitably, the people who benefitted from the mega dams projects were not the natives who sacrificed so much in making way for the dams.
“Just look at the experience of the people who made ways for Batang Ai Dam, Bakun Dam and now Murum Dam. Some landowners from the first dam built in the state, Batang Ai dam built in the 1980s, have yet to receive their rightful compensation until today,” he claimed.
According to Nayagam, there were many unfulfilled promises the community brought up and he had assured the villagers that Suhakam would meet other NGOs as well as relevant government agencies to look into the issues raised.
Among them were the monthly cash allowances, electricity supply, promised farming land and poor housing structure with no proper waste disposal system and lack of playground facilities for children.
They currently receive RM250 cash allowance and RM600 food allowance monthly, but they complained that the supply and delivery of foodstuff was inconsistent and would prefer a RM450 cash allowance and RM400 food allowance.
They also requested for a 24-hour electricity supply compared with the current supply through generator from 6pm till midnight. The community had yet to receive 15 hectares of land per family and agriculture farming assistance, which was promised before construction of the Murum Dam began.
Another issue raised was that the longhouses at the resettlement areas had structural defects and there was also no proper refuse disposal system for household refuse.
The construction of the RM3.5 billion Murum Dam in Belaga was completed last September and scheduled to be generating full 944MW capacity by February next year.
A total of 353 families were relocated to Long Wat at Tegulang resettlement site, located approximately 20km from the dam, and Metalun resettlement site, about 130km from the dam, since September last year.
Under the Murum Resettlement Action Plan, the affected communities are to receive items worth more than RM600,000, including 15 hectares of land per household for community and agricultural purposes and forest access to wildlife and forest produce of a total area of up to 20,000 hectares.

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