Friday, 27 April 2012

SAVE Rivers condemn ‘cleansing’ ritual done at the proposed Baram Dam site

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

26 April 2012

MIRI – SAVE Rivers Network condemns the adat ‘Mayau Dalleh’ or cleansing ritual that was conducted at the proposed Baram Dam site at Nahah Itun Uvek, just below the village of Long Na’ah last Saturday by the delegation of officials from the state government, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) and a few community leaders headed by Senator Lihan Jok.

SAVE Rivers would like to state that the ritual was done for the wrong reasons. According to the adat Kayan-Kenyah, the ritual of ‘Mayau Dalleh’ is normally done to cleanse the land after a calamity or disaster has struck the community. However, no calamity or disaster has happened in Baram and by going ahead with the ritual it shows that the delegation does not respect of the customs and traditions of the Kayan-Kenyah community.

“How could Sarawak Energy and the government hold our traditional ‘Mayau Dalleh’ prayer ritual for blessing a dam which will destroy our Baram culture? This ceremony has traditionally been held in cases of natural disasters and calamities, but now Sarawak Energy and the government abuse our customs to justify their controversial project!”, explains Philip Jau, chairman of the Baram Protection Action Committee (BPAC).

The ritual itself did not receive good response from community leaders in Baram. According to Johannes Luhat, a community representative from Long San and one of the village affected, “Out of the 43 community leaders invited to the ritual, less than 10 turned up. Most of them left early in the morning, prior to the ritual.

“I talked to some of them before they left and they told me that they refused to go to the proposed dam site as they are also against it. It is a big lie if Senator Lihan Jok and YB Dennis Ngau claimed that most of the Baram folks agree to the dam”, stressed Johannes.

SAVE Rivers also wants to know the rationale of setting up two separate committees, the Baram HEP Consultative Committee chaired by Baram MP, Dato’ Jacob Dungau Sagan and the recently formed Baram Hydroelectric Dam Development and Consultation Committee chaired by Senator Lihan Jok.

“The setting up of these two committees is causing confusion amongst the people of Baram. People are not sure which committee has the authority to consult with the communities and thus shows that the government does not have a proper plan to deal with the affected communities,” said Peter Kallang, chairman of SAVE Rivers.

Peter also said that it was wrong for Senator Lihan to say that the NGOs are not from Baram. Most of the committee members in the SAVE Rivers Network are from Baram either affected directly or indirectly by the dam.

-         END –

Press Statement release by:
Mark Bujang
Secretary,
SAVE Rivers Network

We Want DEVELOPMENT, But Not BARAM DAM


Pesanan ke Ketua-ketua masyarakat di Baram, wakil rakyat Baram & Telang Usan, dan Senator Lihan Jok


Pictures during the protest at the proposed Baram Dam site

For more pictures click here

Cursed Baram Dam Episode 4: I would rather die in illness, but not drowned by the dam

Long Liam is the village 2nd nearest to proposed Baram Dam. The Kayan wariors here said; building dam is like slaughtering them with an unseen blade.They would rather die if they were to be relocated to give way for the Baram Dam.

Click to see video

Baram Folks Protest at the Proposed Baram Dam Site

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

23 April 2012

MIRI  – A ceremonial event called the ‘Manyau Dalleh’ organised by the Sarawak State Government and Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) at the proposed Baram dam site to kick start the second phase of soil studies was mired by protest by the people of Baram. The protest was to oppose the planned construction of the Baram Hydroelectric Dam Project.

About 30 people from the villagers from Long Liam, Long San, Ba’ Abang, Long Beku, Long Laput, Long Ekang, Long Tap and concerned NGO’s from Miri participated in the protest. Currently, the only means of access to the dam site is by boat. The protesters used longboats powered by outboard engines, displayed their banners and placard while shouting slogans in the various languages spoken in the Baram district urging the government to scrap the controversial project and take heed of the peoples’ concerns.

Conducting the ceremony for the State Government were Senator Lihan Jok, Dennis Ngau the state assemblyman for Telang Usan state constituency, Datuk Ose Murang the Sarawak Deputy State Secretary and a few community leaders led by Temenggong Pahang Ding.

The protest continued at Long Na’ah village whereas on the day before, a dialogue for community representatives in the Baram District was held by the State Government agencies comprising of the Sarawak State Planning Unit (SPU), the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environmental Board (NREB), the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) the agency from the Prime Minister’s Department and SEB.

Another state assemblyman, Liwen Lagang of the Belaga State Constituency where the Bakun Dam is located and who is also the Sarawak Assistant Minister of Culture and Heritage gave a talk in the previous morning telling about the “success” story of the Bakun Dam Project.

According to Philip Jau, Chairman of the Baram Protection Action Committee (BPAC) and member of the SAVE Rivers Network, said that the community leaders participating in the ceremony do not know the culture and traditions of the Orang Ulu.

He said the Manyau Dalleh ceremony is traditionally used to cleanse the land and the people after a calamity or disaster struck the community.

However there is no calamity or disaster in Baram therefore the ceremony was not supposed to be done added Philip.

“A calamity or disaster will happen in the future if the Baram Dam Project goes forward”, said Philip.

Meanwhile, Peter Kallang, Chairman of SAVE Rivers Network questioned the rationale behind formation of the Baram Hydroelectric Dam Development and Consultation Committee chaired by Senator Lihan.

“So far as the people of Baram are concerned, we do not know about the formation of the committee. We never appoint him as chairman of any such committee.

“Furthermore, in August last year Dato’ Jacob Dungau Sagan, the MP for Baram announced the formation of the Baram HEP Consultative Committee headed by himself. Why is there a need to form two committees and what is their purpose?” asked Peter.

Abun Sui Anyit, a Kenyah lawyer from Belaga refuted Liwen’s success story about the people of Belaga affected by the Bakun Dam.

“So many people are still angry about the broken promises made by the government in order to coerce them to move to Sungai Asap Resettlement Scheme. Many are thinking about moving back to their old ancestral territories as living at Sungai Asap does not guarantee a good future”, said Abun.

The protest went on peacefully and lasted for an hour under the watchful eyes of the police and the Peoples’ Volunteer Corps (RELA).

-         END –


Press Statement release by:
Mark Bujang
Secretary,
SAVE Rivers Network



Staring into an uncertain future

19 April 2012

North View
By STEPHEN THEN

It will not be much of a problem for the younger generation but it will definitely be a daunting challenge for the older folk, to start a new life far away from their original home, when the proposed RM4bil Baram dam project takes place.

HAVING to face imminent life-changing events can be really daunting.

The look of concern and anxiety on their faces says it all ­– they are staring at the winds of change blowing straight in their direction.

And the only way these Baram folk know how to display their worries for all to see was by demonstrating.
A group of these Baram natives on Monday, staged a peaceful demonstration outside a hotel in Miri where Baram politicians and state authorities had gathered to discuss ongoing plans for the preliminary stages of ground works for the proposed RM4bil Baram dam project, some 250km inland from Miri City.

These demonstrators were vocal, chanting slogans against the construction of the dam, but at the same time exercised restraint.

And to the credit of Miri police, the uniformed personnel were very tolerant, choosing to keep watch from a safe distance and allowing the demonstration to proceed for 30 minutes before asking the group to disperse.
I saw similar scenes in Bakun 16 years ago.

Back then, there were some 10,000 Bakun folk from 15 longhouses facing the winds of change that would eventually see them uprooted from their ancestral longhouses, and resettled in what is today known as the Sungai Asap Resettlement Scheme.

These Bakun folk had back in 1996, protested their imminent fate, and some of them had even filed court injunctions against the Bakun dam project.

Three of these Bakun elders managed to obtain an injunction at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, but that too was eventually overturned following an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Bakun folk from the affected longhouses, located deep in the valleys of the Balui region, had to move out to make way for the eventual inundation of the entire valley that measures the size of Singapore.

This time in Baram, at least 20,000 people, from some 25 longhouses that will be inundated when the 1,000mw Baram dam is built at a location between Long Naah and Long Kesseh, would be relocated.

An area of about 39,000 ha would be flooded under depths of 162m of water to facilitate the creation of a reservoir that would feed water into the turbines for the production of electricity.

The electricity from the dam is meant to facilitate the industries that will be established in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

There is no need for me in this column to touch on the merits of the Baram dam anymore, whether or not there is a need for another such dam project in Sarawak.

Senator Lihan Jok had said the project looked set to be implemented as planned.

When I called him on Monday to get his views on the demonstration, he was about to chair a meeting with the Sarawak Energy Bhd and with representatives of the affected settlements in the said hotel where the demonstration took place outside.

Together with Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau they were being briefed on preparations by the SEB to enter Long Naah and Long Kesseh to start rock-drilling in 20 different locations to study the stability of the rock structures.

Lihan said he understood the concern and worries of the Baram folk because he too was from Baram.

“Stephen, I consider you my friend, so I want to be very honest with you. The SEB wants to go into Long Naah and Long Kesseh to drill at least 20 holes into the ground to a depth of 60m so that they can determine the stability of the place where the base of the Baram dam will be built.

“Very soon, we will have to visit every settlement that will be affected by the Baram dam project. We will have to discuss the issues of resettlement, compensation and other related matters.

“Stephen, I don’t want to get into a debate on the need for the Baram dam. Right now, all I can say is that the rock-testing will start. We are not going to start the ground-breaking for the construction yet.

“However, the people of Baram must be informed of what is to happen. I hope they can see the benefits that this project can bring to them,” he stressed.

Based on what Lihan had said, and based on my own personal experiences from what I saw during the early days of the Bakun dam construction, it is imminent that the Baram dam project is about to take off.

Geological surveys for the Baram dam project had been conducted, starting quite a few years ago. This is not the first time that rock studies are being done in Long Kesseh and Long Naah.

I know how these affected residents must be feeling.

It is very difficult to leave behind familiar surroundings, especially the place we consider as home and where we grew up.

For the young ones, maybe they can adapt to the new places where they will have to restart their life.
But for those already in their late 40s and beyond, starting a new life in a new place far from the original home can be daunting.

It is like travelling inside a tunnel which is winding and twisting and dark, and the way forward is only visible for a short distance.

What lies at the next bend and how long this sort of winding journey will last.

Cursed Baram Dam Episode 3: Why Government want to drown our schools?

Kids at Long Na'ah were excited to show us, their visitor to their school which is located at Ulu Baram. They do know that their lovely school will be drowned under 164 m deep water once the Baram Dam starts its impoundment.

Lihan Jok’s ‘Gifts From God’

Posted Saturday, March 17th, 2012
This post is also available in: Iban, Malay
 
Former BN State Assemblyman, Lihan Jok, famously lectured his constituents that the Baram Dam was “a gift from God”.

But, who does Lihan Jok mean by God?

The Baram Dam is a man made project and it will destroy some of the last remaining areas of untouched beauty on God’s Earth.

So, by ‘God’ was Lihan Jok employing the term frequently used for his party boss,Taib Mahmud, who has been enthusiastically driving through this project?

Taib, who runs Sarawak like a mafia ‘Godfather’, and his BN YBs are all hoping, of course, that the Baram Dam will shower them with even more wealth than before.

How?  Well, to build the Baram Dam Taib plans to borrow huge sums of money, which will be guaranteed by the State of Sarawak.  This means that the foreign money lenders will know that ordinary taxpayers will be forced to pay back the money (plus interest) in future years.

Read more

Protest in front of Parcity Everly Hotel, Miri

Video of Protest in front on Parcity Everly Hotel, Miri where Senator Lihan is meeting with community leaders on the proposed Baram Dam

8 villages in Baram reject Baram Dam

16 April 2012

MIRI - Eight villages from the Baram district have protested against the proposal for constructing Mega Dams in the district.

In written and signed statement by the villagers they want the dam project to be cancelled immediately. The letters were submitted to the SAVE Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) here in Miri and SAVE Rivers have forwarded the letters to the Mr. Thorstein Dale Sjotveit, CEO of Sarawak Energy Berhad, the owner of the proposed Baram dam.

Copies of the letters were also sent to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak; the Chief Minister of Sarawak, YAB Pehin Seri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud; the Chairman of SUHAKAM, the Malaysian Commission of Human Right; the Member of Parliament for Baram, YB Dato’ Jacob Dungau Sagan and the State Assemblyman for Telang Usan, YB Dennis Ngau. Copies of the letters and the signatures were also sent to consultants doing studies for the dam construction i.e. MWH Global Headquarters in USA and ENTURA Australia.

The protest letters were received from
1 – Long Lutin
2 – Ba’ Pakan
3 – Ba’ Abang
4 – Long Kawi
5 – Long Item
6 – Long Lilim
7 – Long Liam
8 – Long Selawan

There were more than 650 signatories for the eight letters from the eight longhouses. In the letters the villagers said that they do not want the dams to be built and request the government to find an alternative approach for development which will not deprive the people of their existing land and properties including their village houses, orchards, gardens, cash crops and land.

Swan Ngok from Long Lilim in a recorded interview said, “If we are being relocated to other places we will have a lot of problem with land where we can earn our living.

Even at our existing places, we are having difficulties with regard to land and our traditional jungle products and cash crops.

If the government wants to bring development for us, please give development that is good for us and those which we ask for.” said Swan Ngok.

The messages are meant for the government and the proponent of the proposed Baram dam, both in their letters and their electronically recorded forms are unequivocally against the proposed dam.

The audio and video messages by various villagers from the area were recorded in various languages, namely in English, Malay, Kenyah, Kayan and Penan. Some of the messages are already uploaded on the internet on YOUTUBE or the SAVE Rivers Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/SAVE-Rivers/376175715744786) and the SAVE Rivers Blog (http://saveriversnet.blogspot.com/).

Commenting on the letters and the electronically recorded messages, the chairman of SAVE Rivers Network, Mr. Peter Kallang said, “The respond from the communities in the Baram area is very clear that is they do not want the dam to be built. They know the impact that the dam will have on their lives. It is time for the government to take heed to their pleas.

If developments are for the people the priority must be the wellbeing of the people and they must be well informed as required by recognized international requirement and their freely given consent should be obtained after that. There should never be any forced relocation of the population. However, from our visits to the Baram we can see that most of the people are well aware of the negative impact of the dam for them. They are aware of what happen to those relocated to Sungai Asap as a result to give way to the Bakun dam and those in Batang Ai as a result of the dam there.” Peter said.

Peter added that “The role of NGO’s is to protect the wellbeing of people and the environment so it essentially involves telling the whole truth, without withholding anything. Therefore any suggestion to “neutralize the negative issue” would basically hide the truth from the people or to lie to the people.

In any case, it is most encouraging to note that the people we visited on our road shows, welcomed us and are grateful for the information we gave them. They understand that we as NGO’s are focusing on people and environment because real NGO are apolitical; since we are for the people and that the campaigns on issues, we are not there to win any election or for pursuing any timber concession or things like that. We have no hidden agendas but to give an open support for greater and overall good. So I would like to invite all our leaders, particularly our political leaders to help our people by stopping the proposed Baram dam.”

- END -

Press Statement issued by:
Mark Bujang
Secretary, SAVE Rivers

SAVE Rivers hold demonstration in front of hotel to send message to community leaders to reject Baram Dam

16 April 2012

MIRI – Members of Save Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) and some concerned citizens held a peaceful demonstration in front of a leading hotel here to send a strong message to the community leaders meeting with Senator Lihan Jok at the hotel to reject the Baram Hydro-electric Dam Project.

Earlier on, church leaders were also invited to attend the meeting with the Senator.

About 30 people turned up for the demonstration and even under heavy police presence they clearly stated their displeasure at the Sarawak State Government’s insistence to go forward with the controversial dam project.

According to the Chairman of SAVE Rivers, Mr. Peter Kallang, “We in the SAVE Rivers Network have just come back from our visit to various longhouses in Baram. At our meetings with them and during private interviews which are electronically recorded (on audio and video), practically all of the villagers do not want the dam to be built.”

Peter stressed that he does not want to see their community and church leaders being used and abused by the government to force the people to accept the dam project.

“If the government is sincere in bringing development and power supply to the rural areas why don’t they develop micro-hydro projects?” questioned Peter.

“We do not want this sort of destructive project which permanently destroy the environment and deprive our people of their land and properties. This is not the so called ‘development’ we want.” added Peter.

Mr. Philip Jau from Baram Protection Action Committee (BPAC) which is also one of the community based organisation in SAVE Rivers Network said that the government has been very secretive in dealing with the people in Baram to get them to agree to the dam project.

“The people of Baram really oppose this dam project. We don’t oppose development per say, but the dam project is not the development we want and any development projects being put forward by the government should be done in a transparent and just manner.” said Philip.

Mr. Mark Bujang from Borneo Resources Institute, Malaysia (BRIMAS) also one of the NGOs in the SAVE Rivers Network questioned the State Government on the status of the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment studies.

“Why does the government want the Baram Dam to be built urgently, when these studies are yet to be carried out?” questioned Mark.

The meeting called by Senator Lihan is to prepare for a prayer session to be held at the proposed dam site between Long Kesseh and Long Na’ah which will be held on Saturday 21 April 2012.

Senator Lihan is formerly the State Assemblyman for the constituency of Telang Usan, where the proposed Baram Dam is going to be located.

During the last state election, Senator Lihan was dropped as the incumbent but was recently appointed as a Senator in the Upper House of the Malaysian Parliament.

This is the same person that courted controversy when he mentioned to the people in Baram that the dam is a ‘gift from God’. He also courted controversy previously with his suggestion to change the name of Orang Ulu to Lun Daya of which the Orang Ulu community strongly condemned.

The demonstration started at 2 pm and lasted for half and hour before the police told the demonstrators to disperse.

-         END –

Press Statement released by:
Mark Bujang
Secretary, SAVE Rivers



Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Fooling China's dam builders

Kirk Herbertson

April 06, 2012

Malaysia’s government has hidden environmental and economic costs of dams to attract Chinese money, warns Kirk Herbertson. But the investors too must take responsibility – or face the consequences.



When Chinese state-owned companies invest overseas, they can be caught off-guard by corruption and environmental risks that arise because they assume the host government will resolve these problems. But after recent events such as the suspension of the Myitsone Dam in Myanmar, Chinese companies have conceded that this may be a flawed approach.

In Sarawak—a forested Malaysian state on the island of Borneo— three Chinese state-owned companies are helping to build a network of as many as 51 controversial dams to spur rapid industrial development. (Twelve schemes are firmly on the drawing board for 2020, while there is discussion of building many more by 2037). China Three Gorges Corporation, Sinohydro and the China State Grid Corporation are relying almost entirely on the Sarawak state government to manage the extensive environmental risks of these projects, and the companies have failed to respond to numerous allegations of corruption against their business partners. For Chinese investors, this is a ticking time bomb of local opposition and a public relations disaster waiting to happen.

At first glance, Sarawak provides the kind of “win-win development” that the Chinese government likes to promote. The Sarawak government wants to build the first 12 dams by 2020 in order to produce 7,000 megawatts of electricity and argues that the dams will attract industry to Sarawak and lead to rapid economic growth.

The Sarawak government is led by Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, who has been in power for the past 30 years. Taib is the state’s leading proponent of dam projects, and he has coordinated an effort to bring Chinese investors to Sarawak. For example, in 2007 a representative of Sarawak’s state-owned electricity company spoke during a China-ASEAN forum about potential Chinese involvement in the dams. In June 2009, the Malaysian prime minister discussed the dams with President Hu Jintao during his state visit to China. In April 2010, Taib led a Sarawak delegation to China to visit the Three Gorges Dam and meet with hydropower developers.

Over time, Taib’s efforts have paid off. In 2008, Sarawak’s electricity company and China Three Gorges Corporation signed a US$1 billion agreement to build the 944-megawatt Murum Dam. Construction began shortly after. In 2010, the Malaysian government and the China State Grid Corporation signed an US$11 billion deal to cooperate in developing dams and related projects. In 2011, with the help of Sinohydro and China Export Import Bank, the controversial 2,400-megawatt Bakun Dam became operational after a delay of almost five decades.

But Taib has not provided the Chinese government with a complete picture of costs and benefits of the dams. The hidden environmental costs of these schemes will be significant, while mounting anger from local communities over the projects could lead to major delays. Tens of thousands of indigenous people will be displaced. Many of the indigenous people who have already lost their traditional lands and hunting grounds from the Bakun and Murum dams have found alternative livelihoods and continue to demand better compensation. The full scale of the impacts is unknown, however, because the Taib government has not shared an environmental impact assessment with the public. Public trust is low; no one believes government promises that the environmental impacts will be minimal.

While Malaysia’s environmental laws look strong on paper, corruption prevents these laws from functioning in Sarawak. As widely reported in the Malaysian media, Taib and his family have a controlling ownership stake in many of the local companies that have received contracts to work on the dams. But he also chairs the board that reviews the environmental impact of dams. This is a clear conflict of interest. Indigenous communities have tried to enforce their traditional land rights in Malaysian courts. According to Mark Bujang, head of the Borneo Resources Institute of Malaysia, there are 327 ongoing court cases related to native customary land issues. As Bujang explained, “the courts are beginning to accept the concept of customary land according to the customs and practices of the natives.”

Corruption has also affected potential investors in Sarawak. In March, the mining giant Rio Tinto cancelled its plans to build a US$2 billion aluminum smelter that would have used electricity from the Bakun Dam, not long after the Malaysian national government began a corruption investigation into the project.

The Taib government has also failed to tell Chinese investors about the economic risks of these projects. The 2,400-megawatts of electricity produced by the Bakun Dam already far exceeds Sarawak’s current demand of 972-megawatts of electricity, and the state government has still not found enough willing buyers for the excess electricity. Plans to export the electricity to Malaysia’s mainland have already been scrapped for being too costly and technically unfeasible; and so most of the electricity produced will have to be consumed within Sarawak or other parts of Borneo Island.

But despite having no immediate use for the electricity, the Taib government has continued to seek Chinese investment to build yet more dams.

The Chinese government has made significant progress in improving the way that state-owned companies manage the environmental impacts of their overseas investment. Yet the dams of Sarawak offer an important lesson. It is not enough for multinational companies to rely exclusively on the host government to prevent environmental harm and corruption. Companies should conduct their own environmental due diligence, consult directly with local communities, and never proceed with a project until a robust environmental impact assessment has been completed. This is already common practice among many of the world’s leading multinational companies and will hopefully soon be embraced by Chinese investors as well.

In cases where multiple dams are planned for the same area, it is best practice to conduct a strategic environmental assessment of the cumulative impacts of the dams. The absence of such studies prevents an informed discussion of the risks of the projects, to the detriment of both local communities and businesses.

With such a risky venture, the Chinese government and companies involved should be asking tougher questions of their business partners in the Taib government. Where are the studies on the potential impacts of the projects? What has the Taib government done to weigh the costs and benefits of this scheme against other, more feasible alternatives?

China could actually benefit more if it could look beyond large hydropower as the main vehicle for its investments, and instead view Sarawak as a new market for its innovative clean-energy technologies.

Kirk Herbertson is Mekong campaigner at International Rivers.

Homepage image from International Rivers

How Corruption Filters Down – Dirty Deals At Sarawak Energy

 Posted Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

As all Malaysia now knows, BN/UMNO’s grip on power relies on the continuing support of two corrupted Chief Ministers in East Malaysia.

Both Taib Mahmud and Musa Aman are up to their eyes in money stolen from their people and from the destruction of their home states through unsustainable logging and oil palm plantation.

Many of those stolen billions are used to fund Malaysia’s corrupted ruling party, UMNO, to disrupt the opposition parties and to bribe voters at election time.

So, because these two Chief Ministers are able to deliver so much money and also the key number of votes that keep UMNO in power, Najib cannot move against them to deal with their law-breaking, even if he wanted to.

To the contrary the Prime Minister has brought these corrupted figures right into the heart of his government. Musa Aman’s brother is the Foreign Minister and Taib’s Jacob Sagan is a Trade and Industry Minister – both are tainted with timber corruption.

Read more at Sarawak Report