Baram Folks Protest at the Proposed Baram Dam Site
23 April 2012
MIRI – A ceremonial event called the ‘Manyau Dalleh’ organised by the Sarawak State Government and Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) at the proposed Baram dam site to kick start the second phase of soil studies was mired by protest by the people of Baram. The protest was to oppose the planned construction of the Baram Hydroelectric Dam Project.
About 30 people from the villagers from Long Liam, Long San, Ba’ Abang, Long Beku, Long Laput, Long Ekang, Long Tap and concerned NGO’s from Miri participated in the protest. Currently, the only means of access to the dam site is by boat. The protesters used longboats powered by outboard engines, displayed their banners and placard while shouting slogans in the various languages spoken in the Baram district urging the government to scrap the controversial project and take heed of the peoples’ concerns.
Conducting the ceremony for the State Government were Senator Lihan Jok, Dennis Ngau the state assemblyman for Telang Usan state constituency, Datuk Ose Murang the Sarawak Deputy State Secretary and a few community leaders led by Temenggong Pahang Ding.
The protest continued at Long Na’ah village whereas on the day before, a dialogue for community representatives in the Baram District was held by the State Government agencies comprising of the Sarawak State Planning Unit (SPU), the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environmental Board (NREB), the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) the agency from the Prime Minister’s Department and SEB.
Another state assemblyman, Liwen Lagang of the Belaga State Constituency where the Bakun Dam is located and who is also the Sarawak Assistant Minister of Culture and Heritage gave a talk in the previous morning telling about the “success” story of the Bakun Dam Project.
According to Philip Jau, Chairman of the Baram Protection Action Committee (BPAC) and member of the SAVE Rivers Network, said that the community leaders participating in the ceremony do not know the culture and traditions of the Orang Ulu.
He said the Manyau Dalleh ceremony is traditionally used to cleanse the land and the people after a calamity or disaster struck the community.
However there is no calamity or disaster in Baram therefore the ceremony was not supposed to be done added Philip.
“A calamity or disaster will happen in the future if the Baram Dam Project goes forward”, said Philip.
Meanwhile, Peter Kallang, Chairman of SAVE Rivers Network questioned the rationale behind formation of the Baram Hydroelectric Dam Development and Consultation Committee chaired by Senator Lihan.
“So far as the people of Baram are concerned, we do not know about the formation of the committee. We never appoint him as chairman of any such committee.
“Furthermore, in August last year Dato’ Jacob Dungau Sagan, the MP for Baram announced the formation of the Baram HEP Consultative Committee headed by himself. Why is there a need to form two committees and what is their purpose?” asked Peter.
Abun Sui Anyit, a Kenyah lawyer from Belaga refuted Liwen’s success story about the people of Belaga affected by the Bakun Dam.
“So many people are still angry about the broken promises made by the government in order to coerce them to move to Sungai Asap Resettlement Scheme. Many are thinking about moving back to their old ancestral territories as living at Sungai Asap does not guarantee a good future”, said Abun.
The protest went on peacefully and lasted for an hour under the watchful eyes of the police and the Peoples’ Volunteer Corps (RELA).
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Press Statement release by:
SAVE Rivers Network