KUCHING: An NGO leader today claimed workers from the Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) committed arson on a Penan village in Belaga while several boats belonging to the natives were sunk, prior to the unexpected impoundment of the Murum Dam.
SAVE Rivers Network chairman Peter Kallang made this allegation through his latest Facebook post yesterday.
“Latest from Murum. Long Watt Penan village burnt down. Arson suspected workers from Sarawak Energy Bhd. Boats belonging to the Penans were also sunk (sic). This followed the unannounced impoundment of the dam,” posted Peter on his Facebook page.
The suspected arson was front-paged in local dailies today. The reports said the longhouse at the former Long Wat settlement, about four hours from the Murum Dam site, was allegedly set on fire by unknown persons over the weekend.
The assumed arson was discovered by villagers returning to the settlement to collect their belongings and livestock to be taken to their new homes at Tegulang, according to a local daily here, which quoted Sarawak Conservation Alliance of Natural Environment (SCANE) chairman Raymond Abin.
“When they went there, they were shocked to see their longhouse had been set on fire by someone. They are not sure who were the culprits.
“Basically they have moved, but their property and livestock were left behind because they moved in a rush. According to them, a lot of them had to move in the evening when it was already dark so everything was rushed,” he said.
The villagers told Raymond that a fire had consumed the whole longhouse structure but the full extent of the damage has yet to be estimated. The villagers also suspected that the fire was started on Saturday, the day the dam’s impoundment began.
Apart from the fire, a number of boats and engines belonging to the Long Wat Penans have also been damaged by rising water levels due to the impoundment.
Peter Kallang was also quoted by the same daily that SAVE Rivers Networks had received information that there were about 100 protesters at the dam site.
The 89 families of Long Wat were the first batch of Penans who were moved out of their villages to new resettlements, while about 264 families from six other Penan villages and one Kenyah village had yet to relocate.
The impoundment of the Murum Hydro Electric Power (HEP) Dam started when the outlet river diversion tunnel was closed at 8.25pm on Saturday.
SEB consequently confirmed the start of the impoundment, with a source from the company saying the whole procedure would take around a year for the water to accomplish sufficient capacity for the dam to generate power.