Penans in Murum Not Instigated by NGOs
17 October 2012
MIRI: Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (SCANE) strongly rebuts the remarks made by Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, the Second Minister of Resource Management and Environment that the Penans in Murum are being led astray and instigated by the NGOs to erect road blockades against the construction of Murum Hydroelectric dam project.
As State Minister, Datuk Awang Tengah should get his fact correct before making such allegation on the Penans’ action to put up blockade as last resort to get government attention to act on their problems and issues with regard to the Murum dam project. It is most disrespectful that Awang Tengah looks down on the Penans and denying them of their intelligence to express, asserts and protects their rights.
The Minister's remarks show total disregard and disrespect to the capacity of the Penans to think and act on matters that adversely affect them.
Awang Tengah’s statement that alleged NGOs as instigators and by blaming the NGOs for government failures to resolve the Penans issues is not the way forward as the NGOs has no vested interest or personal agenda in the Murum dam project construction, the root cause of the problems.
It is important to note that the Penans only realised about the massive scale of Murum dam project after one (1) year of its construction, where a group of Penans from Murum area were denied and arrested by the police in their effort to send a petition “Saying No to Murum Dam Project” to the Chief Minister of Sarawak in Kuching on 16th September 2009.
Datuk Amar Awang Tengah questioned on the timing (when the dam is 70% completed) of the blockade, is totally irrelevant as what matters to the Penans is the fact that over the past years the government has neglected their problems and issues as well as side-lined them in all processes related to the development of the Murum dam project.
As far as the Penans are concerned there are lots of outstanding problems, issues and promises that the state government yet to resolve and fulfil. Thus, Awang Tengah claimed that the state government had ironed things out with the affected Penan communities is totally misleading and lies, otherwise the Penans would not have protested and staged road blockade to assert their rights to be heard regarding their problems, issues and demands.
Further, Awang Tengah should not simply make accusation against the NGOs for the action and blockade taken by the Penans. Instead, he should have asked why YB Liwan Lagang, who is the Assistant Minister of Cultural & Heritage and the Belaga State Assemblyman had personally said to support the Penans in ‘re-erecting’ the blockade in Murum dam site if their issues, problems and demands are still unresolved by the Chief Minister and other relevant authorities on Murum dam. YB Liwan Lagang even assured them his support by given out a lump sum of RM6,000 each village (9 villages all together) for buying provisions for Penan families at the blockade.
SCANE reminds Awang Tengah to respect the decisions of the Penans to demand for equity in the Murum Dam project which is in term of 10% royalty of the total energy generated from the dam. He should not just simply laughed off the demand without analysing the fact that make the Penans to come up with such reasonable demand to sustaining their livelihood after being made to sacrifice their entire ancestral lands and forest for the sack of the Murum dam project and the development of Sarawak in particular, and Malaysia as a whole.
SCANE urges the Sarawak government to fulfil all its promises to and be sensitive enough to the interests and demands made by the Penan communities in Murum as listed in their Open Memorandum to the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
The Penan and the Kenyah-Badeng communities in Murum area should be fully compensated for the loss of their properties, customary lands, forest, heritage sites and the disturbance of their river systems.
With regard to the resettlement plan, SCANE is doubtful whether the Penans have been truly consulted base on the principle of the Free, Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) as required under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The number of dialogues held by the authorities with the Penans concerned before approving the resettlement plan does not tantamount to ascribe to the true spirit of Free, Prior Informed Consent since these so-called dialogues are typically top-down approach taken by the authorities to impose government decisions and policy upon the community. The government should not take credit just on the number of dialogues held if no genuine consultation and consent taken were carried out with every members at all level of the affected Penan community.
In many instances, the Penans in Murum stated that their consent and decisions were not being respected and their words with regard to Murum dam have been manipulated by the government officers, politicians and as well as some State Ministers.
The Penans and Kenyah-Badengs in Murum has stated clearly to the government that they were neither being consulted nor their consent were obtained prior to the construction of Murum dam project. An overwhelming majority of the Penans refuted the government claims they support the Murum dam project.
The Penans blockade has entered its 21st days since started on 26th September. Since then has caused some interruptions and standstill to the construction works at the Murum dam project site.
SCANE strongly urges Datuk Amar Awang Tengah to visit the Penans as soon as possible and find for himself the reasons behind that move the Penans to erect the road blockade. We trust the Penans will welcome him as long as he is ready to genuinely listen and understand their predicaments. SCANE believes that the Penans will tell him the truth, on everything that inspired them to erect the blockade, which is the collective action of the Penan communities in Murum area.
The Murum dam is the 1st series of the twelve (12) mega dam projects proposed by the State government of Sarawak. It is built by the Sarawak Energy Berhad, a company linked to Sarawak government. The Murum dam project had been awarded to China’s Three Gorges Project Corporation for an estimated cost of RM3 billion (875 million USD).
News Released by:
Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (SCANE)