Updated: Saturday October 6, 2012 MYT 8:22:15 PM
MIRI: Contractors involved in the construction of the RM3bil-Murum Dam in central Sarawak were slammed by Sarawak Assistant Minister for Culture and Heritage Liwan Lagang on Saturday for the poor treatment of Penans and Kenyahs displaced by the project.
Liwan, who is State Assemblyman for Belaga, was asked by the state government to investigate the 10-day blockade of the roads leading to the dam site by more than 300 natives and to try to resolve the issue.
He spent the past two days talking to the Penans at the site and came out agreeing with them that they had a right to be angry because they had been shoddily-treated.
"I went in and I saw the situation from the view of these Penans whose lives are being uprooted and whose future looks so uncertain.
"I found out that indeed, they had not been properly consulted and their concerns not addressed by those handling the construction of the project.
"The Penans are very reasonable people. They are not anti-government or anti-development. It is just that they were continuously sidelined and not told about what is going on despite the fact that they are being unsettled and their lives and livelihood placed in such uncertainty by the dam project.
"These Penans are resorting to blockading as a sign of frustration and as a desperate act of seeking intervention and help.
"I don't blame them. They are not asking for the moon and the stars.
“These Penans are not happy that their resettlement woes have not been looked into, that they have not been consulted on the compensation issues and other related issues.
“We have not looked at the situation from their point of view. The state authorities and those mega contractors handling the Murum Dam project must be fair to the affected Penans.
"Those contractors involved in the dam project are making millions of ringgit in the project. They must be considerate and exercise better social corporate responsibility and good public relations with the local affected natives.
"I will table a report to the state authorities and make some recommendations about how we should resolve this issue at the Murum Dam," he told The Star on Saturday after his meeting with the Penans at the blockade site.
There are about 350 Penan men, women and children camping out at several points leading to the Murum Dam, some 320km from Bintulu town blocking roads to the dam site.
The Murum Dam is located 70kms from the Bakun Dam. The 1,000 MWs Murum Dam is set to be completed next year.