Monday, August 18, 2014

'Baram villagers forced to sign survey forms'

3:19PM Aug 18, 2014
By Alyaa Azhar
Villagers living near the Baram Dam project are being coerced by project developer Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) and its consultants to fill in social environmental impact assessment (SEIA) survey forms.

This is one of the main findings from a fact-finding mission conducted by Save Rivers Network Sarawak.

Villagers were told by consultants that if they did not comply with the request to fill in the survey forms, they would not receive compensation and would regret their action.

Tanjung Tepalit headman James Nyurang told a press conference at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall today that the people in his village were told to fill up their forms, failing which they would not benefit anything from the government.

“Since most of the villagers oppose the construction of the dam, they did not consent to the consultation done by the SEB, more specifically, its consultants from Chemsain.

“The consultants did not explain anything about the impact of the dam’s construction,” James said.

The construction of the RM4 billion dam has been given the ‘go ahead’ by the state government following a recent high level meeting chaired by Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem.

Once completed it is expected to submerge 38,900 hectares of land and 26 longhouses and villages. Some 20,000 native people will have to be relocated.

Speaking to Malaysiakinilater, James (left) admitted that most headmen in the villages near the proposed dam do not want the dam to be constructed but feared to express their disagreement as they were worried that their services as headmen would be terminated.

“Because of my opposition, my service as headman has not been renewed. But I believe that there is no use being the headman if I don’t work for the people,” he said.

Villagers scolded for not wanting to fill forms

A resident from the village of Long Laput, Lawai Ului, claimed that the consultants reprimanded the villagers when told that they did not want to fill in the forms.

“They just told us to complete the forms and when we asked about the purpose of the survey, they did not give a proper answer.

“When we said we did not want to fill in the forms, they scolded us,” Lawai said.

He lamented that the construction of the Baram Dam would only lead to various problems for the villagers.

“The river will be depleted and contaminated. We will lose our source of livelihood as well as means of transport,” he said.

A resident from the neighbouring village of Long Apu, Mariam Jew, said the consultants only told them to fill in the forms and said the villagers would not receive any compensation if they failed to do so.

“They did not explain the bad impact of the dam’s construction. They only said that we would become millionaires,” she said.

However, Save Rivers Network Sarawak chairperson Peter Kallang (right) said there was no written promise that the villagers would become millionaires if they consented to the building of Baram Dam.

“They promised the same thing to villagers at Bakun and Murum. But until now, the people in Murum have not received the RM500,000 compensation they were promised,” Peter said.

Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) president Thomas Jalong, who is also one of the writers of the fact-finding mission report, said the harassment carried out by the dam consultants violated the rights of the villagers.

Thomas pointed out that the risk of manipulation was also high as the forms were filled in with pencil, but the villagers were told to sign the forms with a pen.

“There is something fishy about this. The risk of manipulation is high,” he said.

Malaysiakini has contacted Sarawak Energy Bhd and is awaiting its response.

~ Malaysiakini

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