8 villages in Baram reject Baram Dam

16 April 2012

MIRI - Eight villages from the Baram district have protested against the proposal for constructing Mega Dams in the district.

In written and signed statement by the villagers they want the dam project to be cancelled immediately. The letters were submitted to the SAVE Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) here in Miri and SAVE Rivers have forwarded the letters to the Mr. Thorstein Dale Sjotveit, CEO of Sarawak Energy Berhad, the owner of the proposed Baram dam.

Copies of the letters were also sent to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak; the Chief Minister of Sarawak, YAB Pehin Seri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud; the Chairman of SUHAKAM, the Malaysian Commission of Human Right; the Member of Parliament for Baram, YB Dato’ Jacob Dungau Sagan and the State Assemblyman for Telang Usan, YB Dennis Ngau. Copies of the letters and the signatures were also sent to consultants doing studies for the dam construction i.e. MWH Global Headquarters in USA and ENTURA Australia.

The protest letters were received from
1 – Long Lutin
2 – Ba’ Pakan
3 – Ba’ Abang
4 – Long Kawi
5 – Long Item
6 – Long Lilim
7 – Long Liam
8 – Long Selawan

There were more than 650 signatories for the eight letters from the eight longhouses. In the letters the villagers said that they do not want the dams to be built and request the government to find an alternative approach for development which will not deprive the people of their existing land and properties including their village houses, orchards, gardens, cash crops and land.

Swan Ngok from Long Lilim in a recorded interview said, “If we are being relocated to other places we will have a lot of problem with land where we can earn our living.

Even at our existing places, we are having difficulties with regard to land and our traditional jungle products and cash crops.

If the government wants to bring development for us, please give development that is good for us and those which we ask for.” said Swan Ngok.

The messages are meant for the government and the proponent of the proposed Baram dam, both in their letters and their electronically recorded forms are unequivocally against the proposed dam.

The audio and video messages by various villagers from the area were recorded in various languages, namely in English, Malay, Kenyah, Kayan and Penan. Some of the messages are already uploaded on the internet on YOUTUBE or the SAVE Rivers Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/SAVE-Rivers/376175715744786) and the SAVE Rivers Blog (http://saveriversnet.blogspot.com/).

Commenting on the letters and the electronically recorded messages, the chairman of SAVE Rivers Network, Mr. Peter Kallang said, “The respond from the communities in the Baram area is very clear that is they do not want the dam to be built. They know the impact that the dam will have on their lives. It is time for the government to take heed to their pleas.

If developments are for the people the priority must be the wellbeing of the people and they must be well informed as required by recognized international requirement and their freely given consent should be obtained after that. There should never be any forced relocation of the population. However, from our visits to the Baram we can see that most of the people are well aware of the negative impact of the dam for them. They are aware of what happen to those relocated to Sungai Asap as a result to give way to the Bakun dam and those in Batang Ai as a result of the dam there.” Peter said.

Peter added that “The role of NGO’s is to protect the wellbeing of people and the environment so it essentially involves telling the whole truth, without withholding anything. Therefore any suggestion to “neutralize the negative issue” would basically hide the truth from the people or to lie to the people.

In any case, it is most encouraging to note that the people we visited on our road shows, welcomed us and are grateful for the information we gave them. They understand that we as NGO’s are focusing on people and environment because real NGO are apolitical; since we are for the people and that the campaigns on issues, we are not there to win any election or for pursuing any timber concession or things like that. We have no hidden agendas but to give an open support for greater and overall good. So I would like to invite all our leaders, particularly our political leaders to help our people by stopping the proposed Baram dam.”

- END -

Press Statement issued by:
Mark Bujang
Secretary, SAVE Rivers


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