Murum Dam: Halt all survey work, demand Penan villagers

The Pelieran Murum Penan Action Committee (Pemupa) is demanding that survey work on native land at the proposed Murum Dam site be halted until clear information is made available to the Penan villagers.

Photograph: Pemupa

The Pelieran Murum Penan Action Committee (Pemupa) together with 1500 residents from seven Penan villages located at the Murum Hydro Electric Dam Project (HEP) are strongly demanding that the current native customary land surveying works being carried out by the Land and Survey Department be halted until clear and proper information is made available to them.

They are making this demand because the information given to them by the Land and Survey Department is not clear and confusing to the Penans.

In early August this year, a group of surveyors and officers from the Land and Survey Department started to survey and demarcate the land in the Murum HEP area. The survey work was done arbitrarily without the participation of the local residents.

The survey work became an issue to the Penans when there is little or no information being given to them about the work.
Even if there is some information given by the Land and Survey Department, it is very confusing, not consistent and at times conflicting. The information given differs from village to village.

The Land and Survey Department told us that not all of our lands will be surveyed even though it will be inundated by the waters of the dam later.

They further went on to say that only three acres of land will be surveyed for each family. Some villagers were even told that only their fruit gardens will be surveyed.

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We were also told that only our temuda lands, which we have cultivated before 1958, will be surveyed. All the temuda lands cultivated after 1958 belongs to the state. Besides that, we were also told that aerial photographs will be used to demarcate our lands.

We would like to state here that the areas which are affected and will be inundated by the Murum HEP are the native customary lands of the Penans. We have occupied and lived in the Murum, Peleiran and Danum since time immemorial. During all this time, our ancestors were living a nomadic lifestyle. Because of our nomadic lifestyle, we have a lot of old camp sites (la’ lamin), historical sites, grave sites (tanem), and sacred sites all over the Murum HEP area. We have occupied this area before the arrival of the Brookes and continued to occupy this area up to the present government.

The Murum HEP will inundate 24500 hectares of the Penans’ customary land.

If the government uses the 1958 cutoff point as an indicator of native customary rights claims for our temuda and fruit gardens, then this is not fair to us. We cannot accept this cutoff point as it is not logical for us to lead a sedentary lifestyle before 1958 as we were still nomadic during that time.

As long as our community is not given clear and proper information and our views and concerns are not taken into account, then the survey work for each Penan village will face more problems and the issue will not be solved.

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We want to make it clear here that we want all our lands to be surveyed. It is important that our gardens, fruit orchards, temuda, pulau galau, communal forest and grave sites be included in the survey. We also want our tana pengurip (ancestral domain) for each Penan village which is going to be inundated by water to be surveyed.

The Penan villages affected by the Murum HEP are Long Wat (82 families with 339 people), Long Malim (45 families with 211 people), Long Singu (64 families with 265 people), Long Tangau (28 families with 107 people), Long Luar (52 families with 189 people) and Long Menapa (39 families with 167 people). Also affected is the Kenyah Badeng village of Long Umpa (35 families with 197 people).

Encik Surang Alung is the chairperson of Pemupa

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