Members of the Save Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) and some concerned citizens held a peaceful demonstration in front of a leading hotel in Miri on 16 April to send a strong message to reject the Baram Hydro-electric Dam project.
Their message was directed at community leaders meeting with Senator Lihan Jok in the hotel.
Earlier, 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 on going forward with the controversial dam project.
According to the Chairman of SAVE Rivers, 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?” asked Peter.
“We do not want this sort of destructive project which permanently destroys the environment and deprives our people of their land and properties. This is not the so called ‘development’ we want,” he added.
Philip Jau from Baram Protection Action Committee (BPAC), which is also one of the community- based organisations 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 se, 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.
Mark Bujang from Borneo Resources Institute, Malaysia (Brimas), 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?” asked Mark.
The meeting, called by Senator Lihan, was to prepare for a prayer session to be held at the proposed dam site between Long Kesseh and Long Na’ah on Saturday, 21 April 2012.
Senator Lihan is formerly the state assembly member for Telang Usan, where the proposed Baram Dam is to be located.
During the last state election, Senator Lihan was dropped as the incumbent but he was recently appointed as a senator.
This is the same person that courted controversy when he told 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 – which the Orang Ulu community strongly condemned.
The demonstration started at 2.00pm and lasted for half and a hour before police told the demonstrators to disperse.