The Sarawak government has been accused of flooding the Orang Ulu community with empty promises and lies in order to gain their support for the construction of the multimillion ringgit Baram Dam.
“The government is taking advantage of the people’s lack of knowledge on the adverse effects of the Baram Dam in order to proceed with the project.
“They have been flooding us with empty promises and lies,” said Tanjung Tepalit headman James Nyurang, when asked about statements of support for the dam from Penghulu Paul Kalang, Lihan Ding and Ngau Anyie.
"The authorities made a lot promises. We should look back at their promises of development when they wanted to log timber in our areas.
“Similar promises were made to develop the rural areas when they wanted our land for oil palm plantations.
"Again, the story to develop Long Lama. where we saw several ceremonies to launch its rural growth centre (RGC). And until today, the project is yet to start off,” he said.
“Is the government going to flood us with more empty promises of development with the construction of the Baram dam?” he asked.
Leaders must 'talk to displaced people first'
TR James said the Orang Ulu community leaders in Baram should first visit the Batang Ai, Bakun and Murum dams and talk to the displaced people before they talk about supporting the implementation of the Baram Dam.
"These community leaders must see how the displaced people, who have been settled elsewhere have suffered, their way of life uprooted and disrupted, their ancestral lands submerged and their heritage and civilisations wiped out,” James said.
“We don’t want all these problems to happen to our people,” he added.
Expressing similar sentiments, Lawas Karing of Long San said the community leaders were more concerned with their own selfish interests, rather than the catastrophic impact of the dam on the communities in Baram.
“Their intention is to mislead the majority of the people into believing that, through the dam, the people will see greater development benefits, such as roads, clean water, 24 hours of electricity, medical, sports and higher education facilities coming their way.
"These community leaders know all these are lies, but they want the people to support the dam so that they can safeguard their personal interests,” Lawas claimed.
Another anti-dam protester, Nungang Anyi from Long Liam, disputed claims by Lihan Ding and Ngau Anyi that dams would bring about development and progress.
"Dams bring about misery and harsh life to those who have been affected by the dams.
"Look at the lives of those who have been displaced and resettled elsewhere because of the Batang Ai, Bakun and Murum dams.
"Open your eyes to the harsh reality and the hardship faced by the resettlers,” Nungang said.
Henry Sigau, the Youth wing chairperson of Save Rivers Sarawak, challenged Lihan Ding, Ngau Anyi and community leaders in the area to debate the effects of the Baram Dam on local communities.
“With this debate or forum, the natives in Baram, who are directly affected by the dam, will be able to take part in and distinguish the ‘bad and the good’ effects of the proposed dam.
“We must allow democracy, in which the people can decide for themselves whether to support or oppose the dam,” Nungang added.