Thursday, August 7, 2014

'Natives denied promised monthly food supplies'

2:47PM Aug 7, 2014
The Penan and Kenyah indigenous communities near the Murum dam have not been given RM600 worth of monthly food supplies, among a host of other resettlement promises, the Bar Council has claimed today.

Council vice-president Steven Thiru (right) said this was what Bar Council found following a trip to Murum through its Orang Asli Rights and Human Rights Committee in May this year.
The communities were displaced from their original settlements due to the Sarawak government's decision to construct the Murum dam.

Steven, in a statement, said the situation on the ground "differs significantly" from the "seemingly positive statements" made by the Malaysian government regarding the resettlement and rights of the indigenous people.

The Bar Council listed seven major areas of concern, among which is that the promise of land and furnishing, as part of the resettlement exercise, have also allegedly not been fulfilled.

"The Penan and Kenyah communities are being deprived of the provision in full of the promised monthly food supplies of RM600 per month per household.

"No genuine attempt has been made to explain the shortfall, nor has the shortfall been rectified," the statement said.

It also said that a promised land allocation of 15 hectares has yet to materialise, and therefore the communities could not begin any “meaningful agricultural activity” because the surrounding land is controlled by companies running palm oil plantations.

Other alleged issues identified are:

  • Housing for the two communities were constructed of poor materials and quality, with cracks and other damages appearing after just six to eight months.
  • Promises diesel subsidies to help children commute to school were not kept.
  • The Tegulang Resettlement Area receives only 12 hours of electricity per day whereas the Metalun Resettlement Area receives six hours per day, both via diesel generators.
  • Job opportunities are scarce or non-existent, as surrounding timber and palm oil companies hire foreign labour.

Steven said the indigenous groups are now displaced and desolate, in contrast to what Malaysia had told the UN Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) last year.

Malaysia had told the UN that Sarawak government and the Sarawak Energy Board (SEB) had provided indigenous groups affected by the Murum dam construction “with a comprehensive compensation package, which assured them an immediate and substantial improvement in living standards, better access to basic human rights to education and health care, and better economic opportunities, whilst preserving their cultural identities and traditions.”

The Bar Council urged the Sarawak government and SEB to address the issues at hand, saying that the Penan and Kenyah communities have been forced to accept a life that is clearly not sustainable and would lead to long-term dependency on government aid.

It also urged the Malaysian government to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which it had voted in favour of in 2006 and 2007, and recognise previous court decisions that have ruled in favour of or recognising the rights of indigenous groups.

“It is inexplicable that the Malaysian government appears to have reneged on its UNDRIP pledge to the international community, and perhaps more importantly, to its indigenous minority citizenry,” Steven said.
~ Malaysiakini

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