FMT Staff | October 3, 2012
Many high-level government leaders ignorant of the UN declaration on indigenous rights which Malaysia has signed, says Save Rivers Network.
KUCHING: Frustrated at the state government’s disregard for international standards and laws in relation to the Murum Dam project, a network of local NGOs has offered to tutor high level government leaders on indigenous rights.
Save Rivers Network, which is spearheading the struggle against state’s plans to build 12 dams in Sarawak’s interior, has offered to teach government officials about indigenous rights as guaranteed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Save Rivers Network chairman, Peter Kallang: “It is unfortunate that government leaders do not understand the international UN declaration that Malaysia has signed. We would therefore like to explain to them the rights of indigenous peoples under the country’s laws.”
His offer comes in the wake of a massive blockade of the access road into the construction site of the Murum hydroelectric dam project mounted by the Penan and Kenyah communities.
Since last Wednesday, over 200 over them, from seven villagers, have been taking turns to block the access road to the dam at Seping River Bridge, about 40km from the Murum Dam project site.
The villagers, representing 1,500 Penan and Kenyah communities who are scheduled for resettlement because of the project, are up in arms over a leaked Resettlement Plan report.
According to Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), the compensation offered by the state government to the communities is “anything but fair and will impoverish them”.
“The monthly allowances to be paid to the villagers after resettlement falls below the poverty level and ends after four years.
“Their new farmland is covered with oil palms owned by large companies and there is hardly any forest left to sustain their traditional livelihood based on products from the wild,” it said.
Demand to meet with SEB
BMF also said the Penans and Kenyah were never consulted and had never given their consent as demanded by international standards.
“They are willing to keep up the blockade until the Sarawak Energy Berhad, the agency in charge of the dam, and government authorities agree to their demands concerning resettlement and compensation,” said the BMF statement.
The communities are demanding to meet Sarawak Energy’s Norwegian CEO, Torstein Dale Sjøtveit, as he is one of the persons responsible for the 12-dam complex in Sarawak, of which the Murum Dam is the first one to be built.
The impoundment of the 944 MW Murum dam is meant to start in early 2013.
According to the Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (SCANE) the Murum Dam will flood almost 250 sq kms of forest and will require the forced relocation of about 1,500 Penans as well as the 18 Kenyah-Badeng families in Long Umpa village, near Long Malim in Danum River, the upper course of the Murum River.
It was previously reported that worried representatives from the affected communities had met on Sept 25 and came up with an open memorandum, detailing their issues, problems and demands.
The memorandum for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud also listed issues involving native customary rights land, compensation for their land and the place where they are to be resettled.