By Diana Rose
MIRI: About 150 people in 17 longboats from the Kayan, Kenyah and
Penan communities in Baram gathered at the proposed Baram hydroelectric
dam project site at Nahah Itun Uvek, just below the village of Long
Naah, recently for a prayer session in their bid to stop the project.
During the hour-long event, the villagers asked for strength and courage to continue their struggle to get the state government to stop the project.
Save Sarawaks Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) chairman Peter Kallang said the fact that the session drew so many of the local community leaders and members showed that the call to scrap the project would not easily subside until the government relented.
“I am touched by the support given by the people of Baram. The people that came for the prayer session far outnumbered those who came for the ‘Mayau Daleh’ ritual last April,” said Kallang.
Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) together with several state government officials and community leaders conducted the ‘Mayau Daleh’ or cleansing ritual last April for the safety of workers constructing the dam.
“I also received lots of calls, SMSes, messages in blogs, Twitter and Facebook all supporting our prayer session and the call to scrap the project,” Kallang claimed.
The day before the prayer session, about 200 people turned up for a dialogue at Long Naah village and those who spoke to represent their respective communities included a few headmen.
Long Nah headman Wan Saging made his stand loud and clear that the people of his village rejected the project outright.
Meanwhile, Baram Dam Consultative Committee (BDCC) vice-chairman Dennis Ngau, when contacted, said that he was aware of what was going on in Baram.
He said those loud voices of rejection represented “the very small voice of the minority” while the majority preferred to keep quiet.
Dennis, who is also assemblyman for Telang Usan, said he would be visiting all the 10 affected longhouses very soon.
“We will come in a team so that all queries and questions put forward by the affected people can be answered during those sessions.
“Our main objective is to clear the air so that each and everyone can understand both the pros and cons of the project, which can help them decide whether they are for or against it,” said Dennis.
BDCC has been duly appointed to negotiate terms and conditions on behalf of the affected communities with the proponent of the project.
“Our aim is to ensure that the affected communities’ welfare is guarded and they will benefit from the project,” he added.
Online version in The Star