The Baram dam is killing us, say Orang Ulu leaders
10:38AM Jun 16, 2014
Sixty-five angry leaders representing various communities in Baram have urged the government not to force the proposed Baram hydro-projects down their throats as it is tantamount to causing their death.
“So to push something down our throats by force is tantamount to causing our death,” they said in a joint statement after a meeting last Thursday at Long Keseh, Baram.
The statement was issued in response to Telang Usan assemblyperson Dennis Ngau who had said that the dam would affect only less than 25 of the 400 villages and longhouses in the whole of Baram and that the number of people affected directly by the project is estimated to be less than 10,000.
He had said that the Baram people, numbering 60,000, would benefit from the infrastructure projects, especially roads and amenities which would be implemented along with the dam.
“We have shown the proposed resettlement scheme to the affected people, and they are happy with it as it will be much better than previous resettlement schemes,” Dennis had said.
Members of the youth wing of the Save Rivers Sarawak network and its pro-tem chairperson Henry Sigau, who were present at the meeting, also launched a signature campaign against the dam.
The leaders said, “We the people of Baram, therefore, would like to reiterate urging to the government and the Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) to stop and revoke its plan to build the Baram Dam.
“We also demand that all activities that are carried out in connection with the proposed Baram Dam be ceased forthwith as we regard the proposed dam as a real threat to our rights, lives, livelihood, lands, resources, properties, heritage, and future and urge all parties to respect our rights and choice to remain in our respective existing villages and settlements.
“Our forefathers have sacrificed their lives and shed their precious blood to fight and protect our country and homelands. It is only right that we have the right to inherit and use our lands, territories and resources sustainably and it is our moral and social responsibility to pass on this heritage to our children and future generations.
“We have collectively and unanimously decided and will continue to zealously protect and defend our rights and our ways of live, our sustenance, culture, identity and our future.
“Forcing the project down our throat is tantamount to killing us,” they stressed,
‘Turning a deaf ear to the rakyat’
In response to Dennis’ statement, the leaders accused him of working very hard for SEB to promote the proposed Baram hydro-electric dam and turn a deaf ear to the rakyat, the very people he is supposed to represent.
“He should serve and protect the rights of his constituents instead of working hard for SEB to promote the Baram dam project,” they said.
“We regard as absurd, irrational, coated with lies and a desperate attempt to divert the real situation on the ground the statement by Dennis, especially when he mentioned that ‘we have shown the proposed resettlement scheme to the affected people and they are happy with it...’
“Firstly, he tried to shy away from his responsibility by simply making noises against objections to the Baram dam, which he claimed were made by only a few members of opposition parties and NGOs.
“This means the voices of objection to the project from the several thousands of people from Baram through letters and protests are simply swept under the carpet by Dennis.
“The truth is we have never been shown such information and the hard truth is that he never asked us whether we accepted or consented to this project in the first place. As citizens of this country and residents of Baram for many, many generations, we are entitled to be consulted prior to the planning and designing of any projects that greatly affect us and we have the right to reject,” they added.
On a statement by three government-appointed community leaders, they said the community leaders have been forced by their political leaders to support the proposed Baram dam at the expense of the rights and well-being of the Orang Ulu communities.
“The so-called Orang Ulu leaders (or Penghulu) speak only for themselves and for their own interests. They are not elected by the people to the penghulu post but were appointed by their political masters.
“It is not surprising to hear them express support to the project simply to please their masters at the expense of the rights and well-being of the communities under their charge,” they said..
“If they claim themselves to be leaders, they should have taken the initiative to consult the communities in Baram about the dam project and listen to the legitimate views, concerns and objections of the people to the project and voice out those concerns to the government leaders and Sarawak Energy Berhad.
“Instead, they went around to some villages and enticed people to support the dam project with all kinds of goodies and threats, while at the same time they have very little information about the whole aspect of the project.
“They should have shown that they are responsible, accountable and caring towards the well-being, interests and aspirations of the communities and not made blanket and irrational statements to create confusion and misunderstanding,” they said.