Wednesday, 4 July 2012
Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) not seeking free, prior and informed consent from affected Baram communities to build proposed dam
Miri: Save Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) refutes the CEO of Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), Torstein Dale 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, as reported on the 20th of July, 2012 in the Borneo Post.
“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,” Peter Kallang, Chairperson of SAVE Rivers has said.
“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 see 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,” Peter Kallang emphasized.
Peter Kallang expressed regret that while the three-day consultation could be seen as a first, yet meagre step to consult with the communities, the people themselves were not allowed to voice out their concerns in a fair, appropriate space.
“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 Naah was not allowed a chance to speak. We witnessed Senator Lihan Jok publicly using the public addressing system told the former penghulu, not to talk.” Peter Kallang said.
Philip Jau, Chairman of Baram People Action Committee, supported this claim, and added, “we also heard Temenggong Pahang Ding telling the people to be quiet when people shouted their discontent. It was very shocking to see that the people were not given the right to be heard.”
According to the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that Malaysia is a signatory of, the government has a duty-bound responsibility to gain free, prior, and informed consent from indigenous peoples for development projects.
The conditions include, “consultations must not try to coerce indigenous people to agree, the government must give indigenous communities all the information they need to make their decision, indigenous communities should be given enough time to discuss their concerns and should not be rushed into making a decision, consultations should only end when indigenous communities and the government come to an agreement.”
“According to what we understand of the free, prior and informed consent process of UNDRIP, we can safely say that these conditions have not been respected by SEB and the Sarawak government, in terms of seeking agreement from the communities to build the proposed Baram dam,” Peter Kallang said.
SAVE Rivers has since collected thousands of signatures from over 20 affected communities, for a petition saying no to the proposed Baram dam. These petitions have been sent to the Sarawak Energy Berhad, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, the Member of Parliament and State Assembly Representative of Baram, and the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
“We also have collected and mailed thousands of postcards to the Chief Minster, asking for the dam not to be built, and have solicited many signatures through online petitions,” Philip Jau said.
“I have personally handed a letter to the Prime Minister last year, and to the Deputy Prime Minister in April this year, saying that the communities do not want the dam,” Philip Jau added.
“Not all demonstrations are organized by NGO’s, indicating that many communities are rising up against the planned construction of Baram dam. An example of this is the recent anti-Baram dam protest in Miri this early June,” explained Peter Kallang.
The latest twist showing the people’s opposition to the Baram dam are the police reports made in connection with it. In the first report, Ding Ngau of Long Na’ah complained about the illegal intrusion by the SEB workers on his land to carry out drilling in the ground. The second report made was from Dorus Katan Juman reproving the statement which says that the Baram people agreed to the Baram dam as untrue. Dorus was referring to a press report made at a meeting by a group of community leaders with the Deputy Chief Minister led by Temegong Pahang Ding, where the Temegong was quoted as making the statement.
“We hope that the Sarawak government and Sarawak Energy Berhad would respect the communities that they claim to represent, by following the free, prior and informed consent process as listed out by UNDRIP. Hopefully, they would then get a clearer picture of the development needs that the people are asking for, which does not include building a mega-dam that would destroy their ancestral and farmlands,” Peter Kallang concluded.
Press Statement Release by:
Ms. June Rubis
Date: 20th June 2012
Note to editors: 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.