Dam will turn Baram into ’1Malaysia kubur’

28 April 2012

The mayau dalleh ritual held last Saturday to enable the commencement of work on Baram dam may 'backfire' on the government.

MIRI: The majority of the Orang Ulu community leaders in the Baram district are against the construction of the proposed Baram hydro-electric dam but are helpless against the state government and its agencies.

Speaking to FMT, a community leader from Long San Johannes Luhat said the dam will turn Telang usan into a “1Malaysia grave” and will drown their culture, roots and civilisation.

He said that the longhouses of some 20,000 natives from 25 villages, who will be relocated, will be drowned along with 38,900 hectares of their native customary rights (NCR) land.

“The Baram dam will kill our civilisation, our culture and our roots. All our NCR land, pemakai menua, pulau galau, longhouses, churches and schools will be drowned.

“All these things that are so dear and mean so much to us are forcibly taken away from us and will be gone forever.

“Those who are to be resettled will become orang asing [foreigners] at the new place wherever that may be, and the sudden change of life will have unimaginable social and psychological effects,” Luhat said.

“We Dayaks have a strong traditional bond to our lands. Take away them, we are finished. Our forefathers shed blood to keep these lands for us the present generation. Their sacrifices and efforts will be meaningless with the kubur (grave) looming,” he added.

Ritual done for ‘wrong reasons’

Meanwhile, SAVE Rivers Network chairman Peter Kallang said the absence of the majority of leaders from the Kayan, Kenyah and Punan communities from the mayau dalleh ritual ceremony last Saturday clearly indicated their objection to the construction of the dam.

“Out of 43 community leaders from the various ethnic communities invited to witness the mayau dalleh fewer than 10 were present. They told me they do not agree for the dam to be constructed at Nahah Itun Uvek,” said Kallang.

The mayau dalleh is a ritual practised by the Kanyan/Kenyah natives to cleanse the community after it is strucked by a calamity.

Following the ceremony, Kallang had hit out at the organisers, saying that the “ritual was done for the wrong reasons”.

“However, no calamity or disaster has happened in Baram and by going ahead with the ritual, it shows that the delegation does not respect the custom and tradition of the Kayan-Kenyah community,” he said.

According to Kallang, the majority of those present at the ceremony were Rela members, civil servants and officials from other departments and Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB). Leading the delegation was Senator Lihan Jok, the former Telang Usan assemblyman.

“They were there to make up for the numbers as the local people including the community leaders refused to attend,” he added.

Meanwhile, another NGO leader, Philip Jau, has questioned the rationale behind a ceremony that “will destroy” the Baram culture.

“This ceremony has traditionally been held in cases of natural disasters and calamities, but now Sarawak Energy and the government have abused our custom to justify their controversial project,” said Jau, who is the chairman of Baram Protection Action Committee.


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