MIRI: Save Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) together with the Baram Protection Committee (BPAC) totally disagrees with the statement made by Sarawak’s Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud (published in the Borneo Post today) that the “dam is vital for Baram’s future”.
“The Chief Minister is right in saying that the Baram Dam is vital for the future of Baram, but the future he is painting looks very bleak as far as the people of Baram is concerned,” said Philip Jau, Chairman of BPAC.
“I can safely say that the reality on the ground is most of the people in Baram do not want the dam as they have seen and heard about the hardships and the unresolved problems that the people of Batang Ai and Bakun faced,” added Philip.
“Even in Murum, the Penans affected by the Murum Dam are not happy with the way the government is treating them. How can Taib say that the people of Murum are okay?” questions Philip.
Chairman of SAVE Rivers Peter Kallang refutes Taib’s statement that Baram is half empty and it needs the dam to attract people who had migrated to towns to come back.
“Taib should ask himself why Baram is empty,” said Peter.
“Since the 1970s, the timber in Baram has been exploited and many of the timber companies and those connected to the timber industry made money. However, not much of the revenue from the timber industry went back to develop the Baram District.
“Baram still lacks the basic infrastructures for it to progress and most of its natural resources such as timber and land have been exploited without much (being) given back to the locals and that is why people in Baram migrated elsewhere to look for a better living,” explained Peter.
Peter went on to explain that in the Sungai Asap Resettlement Scheme, the unemployment rate is quite high.
“Half of the people resettled in Sungai Asap have left to look for better jobs elsewhere.
“For the other half that stayed, half of that have gone back to their original lands or (are) living on jelatongs (floating houses).
“Most of the lands surrounding Sungai Asap are leased out to timber and plantation companies, making it more difficult for the people there to farm and earn a decent living”, said Peter.
SAVE Rivers and BPAC concurred that Taib seems to be out of touch with the feelings and sentiments of the people on the ground, as some community leaders and elected representatives are giving false information that all the people in Baram agree to the Baram Dam project.
SAVE Rivers and BPAC suggest that Taib should make a surprise visit to Sungai Asap as well as the Penans living in Murum and the communities that are going to be affected by Baram Dam to get a first-hand feel of the real situation on the ground instead of saying that everything is all right and people are happy with the dam projects.
Mark Bujang is secretary of SAVE Rivers