The blockade against the Baram Dam construction at kilometre 15 of Jalan Samling has been re-erected hours after it was dismantled by the authorities to access to loggers, locals claim.
According to protester Johannes Luhat, about 50 police and 10 Forestry Department personnel accompanied by logging company representatives dismantled the blockade to allow the loggers in.
However, the villagers manage to raise a new barricade and struck a deal with the Forestry Department to allow a three-day grace period before further action.
“We asked them who authorised them to dismantle the blockade, since the area is still under dispute and no court order was made to order us to lift our blockade,” Johannes said in a statement issued by local NGO Save Rivers.
However, he said, the authorities claimed that the blockade is illegal and that the loggers have the right to clear the area for the controversial Baram hydroelectric dam.
Johannes said that it is also illegal to log the land as it is native customary land belonging to the villages of Na’ah and Long Kesseh.
He said that reports have been lodged with the police and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission over what the villagers believe is encroachment, but to no avail.
Hundreds of villagers have participated in the Baram Dam blockade since it first went up in October last year, against the building of the dam.
Indigenous Kenyah, Kayan and Penan people are blocking the main entry points to bar loggers and dam developer state-owned Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) from accessing the construction area.
The Baram dam is expected to generate 1,200 megawatts of power but critics argue that it will also displace 20,000 villagers and put 400 square kilometres of rainforest under water.
Responding to a protest on the same issue in Kuala Lumpur last month, SEB said that the move was part of a concerted effort to smear SEB and the government.
It added that the electricity from the dam will generate more development which in turn will help the community.
It also maintains that it has always treated local communities with respect and has provided adequate compensation.