Sham ‘consultations’ with Baram Dam natives

Joseph Tawie | June 21, 2012
Sarawak NGO, Save Rivers claims that Baram hydro-electric owners, Sarawak Energy Berhad, is lying about having engaged local natives' views on the project.

MIRI: Local Baram natives attending a three-day community ‘consultation’ programme organised by the Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), the owners of the Baram hydro-electric dam, were told to “shut-up” and not voice their discontent.

A shocked Philip Jau, chairman of Baram People Action Committee, said people were not given a ‘right’ to speak.

“It was very shocking to see that the people were not given the right to be heard.

“We also heard Temenggong Pahang Ding telling the people to be quiet when people shouted their discontent,” said Jau referring to Ding who’s had two police reports lodged against him under native law for misleading his community and making false statement.

Ding had reportedly declared to deputy chief minister Alfred Jabu that Baram residents were ‘fully’ behind the state government plans to build the dam.

Yesterday Peter Kallang, chairman of Save Sarawak Rivers Network (Save Rivers) alluding to Jabu’s infamous ‘suppressing and oppressing’ phrase against the opposition, said SEB were doing the same with the natives, by barring them from voicing their concerns and their anti-dam activities.

He described the SEB initiated ‘consultation’ has a meagre step to engaging the community.

“We [Save Rivers] were there at that so called consultation which was tied to the ceremony ‘Mayau Daleh’ and we were dismayed that the former Penghulu of Long Na’ah was not allowed a chance to speak.

“We witnessed Senator Lihan Jok (chairman of the Baram Hydroelectric Dam Community Development and Consultation Committee) publicly using the public addressing system and telling the former penghulu, not to talk,” Kallang said.

Both Kallang and Jau were responding to a statement by the SEB chief executive officer Torstein Dale Sjotveit.

‘SEB did not consult natives’

Sjotveit had refuted the claim by Save Rivers that the geological studies were done with complete disregard to the people in Baram.

Save Rivers is a coalition of eight local indigenous NGOs, formed in late 2011 to stop the construction of the planned mega-dams in Sarawak, and to promote alternative development needs of the affected communities.

Reacting to Sjotveit, Kallang said: “Save Rivers refutes Sjotveit’s claim that SEB has conducted studies on the area for the proposed Baram dam legally with proper, free and fair consultation of the affected communities.

“It is disappointing that the CEO of SEB thinks that three days in one area, is a sufficient period for an informed consultation with thousands of indigenous peoples who will be severely affected by the construction of the dam.

“Since the news leak of the construction of Baram dam about four years ago, we have been constantly on the ground, visiting over 30 of the affected longhouses, to seek their views on the Baram dam.

“Based on our extensive consultations spanning over three years, we have concluded that most of the inhabitants do not want the dam,” Kallang emphasised.

He said Save Rivers had to date collected thousands of signatures from over 20 affected communities, for a petition saying no to the proposed Baram dam.

These petitions, he said, had been sent to the SEB, Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, Jihok, Baram MP Jacob Dungau and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

Jau, meanwhile, added that his group had collected and mailed thousands of postcards to the Taib asking for the dam not to be built.


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