SAVE Rivers support Murum blockade, call for Govt. to listen to the Penans


16 October 2012

Miri: SAVE Rivers supports the rural communities currently blockading construction of Murum dam since September 26th, 2012. We call upon the state government to listen to the pleas of these communities, and we note that it is unfortunate that the dialogue initiated by Belaga assemblyman, Liwan, has not gone any further since his trip in Bintulu to meet with some of the community representatives.

According to the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) signed by Malaysia, the Free, Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) is upheld, as in Article 10: relating to right to land and territory; Article 19: relating to self-governance and the formulation of laws and policies affecting indigenous peoples; Article 28, no. 1: relating to right to land and to redress; Article 29, no.2: right to territory and security from hazardous materials; Article 32, no. 2: right to land and resources; and other related articles of UNDRIP.

We therefore urge the state government to recognize the indigenous peoples right to exercise their own decision-making processes, including the right to say NO and/or the right to set up their terms and conditions for partnerships in relation to how their land and territories are being used. Bona fide NGO do not have any ulterior motives in supporting and making the people aware of their rights and to say otherwise is imprudent.

In relation to the Murum blockade, we support the memorandum put forward by the affected communities, who want promises initially made by the state government, fulfilled. We note that the government so far has ignored their demands, including a meeting with the Sarawak Planning Unit chaired by the Deputy State Secretary, Datu Ose Murang and with the participation of representatives from the Sarawak Energy Berhad.

We also note that the indigenous Penan communities of Murum dam have been against this mega-project from the beginning: in 2009, a group of Penans had sent a petition saying no to Murum dam to the Chief Minister of Sarawak and some petitioners were arrested instead. So to say that the villagers are “being made used by NGO’s” is utterly false.

We remind the government of its claims that the resettlement of Murum dam would be "better than those in the past", and we urge the government to immediately rectify all wrong-doings made against the communities of Murum.

In view of the unsatisfactory responses from the authorities, we urged the government to be sincere in handling the grievances and the desperate measure that the people of Murum is resorting to now and that is to put up the blockade to pressure the government to engage them in a truthful manner. The real reason why there is a protest by the people is because their demand is not met.

We the indigenous communities are becoming more aware that our rights are often not respected and our voice seldom heard by the authorities. Our collective voice is getting stronger each day, and we hope that the government would start listening to people it claims to represent, before more indigenous communities become displaced against their will, and end up poorer than before.

End of statement.

Peter Kallang
Chairman of Save Rivers


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