The Penans in Murum affected by the Murum Hydroelectric Power Dam are still blockading the road leading to the construction site of the dam despite newspaper reports saying otherwise, reports Mark Bujang.
Raymond Abin, coordinator for Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (Scane) confirmed today via telephone that the blockade in Murum is still on and the reports in the newspapers saying that the blockade had been lifted are false.
Raymond said, “Liwan Lagang did indeed tried to negotiate with the Penans to dismantle the blockade; however the Penans were not happy with him as he could not assure them in writing that the government would accede to their demands.”
According to Raymond, the Penans, however, did agree to Liwan’s suggestion not to bring their children to the blockade site, and with this some of the Penans brought their children back to their villages.
Liwan also invited a few Penans with him to Bintulu and then Kuching to meet and negotiate with government officials there.
It is here that Liwan told the press that the blockade had been lifted contrary to the report that Raymond gave.
“I met the elders and leaders in Murum yesterday and they are saying that the blockade is still on,” Raymond said.
“They told me that only one headman accompanied the few members of the community to Kuching and that they are not in the position to make any decisions on behalf of the whole community,” he added. “The Penans are still adamant with their demands to the government.”
Among their demands are 25 hectares of land for each of the 300 families affected by the dam; RM500,000 cash compensation for each family; 30,000 hectares of land to each of the nine villages; an education fund for their children; a community development fund for their community; and rights to land which are not flooded (islands created) by the dam.
On Monday, 8 October 2012, the Borneo Post reported that the Penans in Murum had ended their 10-day blockade with the intervention of state assembly member for Belaga, Liwan Lagang, who is also Sarawak’s Assistant Minister of Culture and Heritage.
The Penans are from eight villages, namely Long Wat, Long Luar, Long Tangau, Long Menapa, Long Singu and Long Malim, located upstream, and Long Peran and Long Jaik, downstream of the dam project site.
The Murum Dam will inundate and require the forced relocation of about 1,500 Penans as well as the 18 Kenyah-Badeng families in Long Umpa village near Long Malim in Danum River, the upper course of the Murum River.
SAVE Rivers is again urging the government to listen to the plights of the Penans and is emphasising the need for the government to abide by the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Undrip) which Malaysia has agreed to adopt at the United Nations.
SAVE Rivers note with great concern that the government has admitted through James Masing, Sarawak’s Minister of Land Development, and now Liwan Lagang that there are a lot of weaknesses in the government’s dealing with the Penans affected by the Murum Dam project.
SAVE Rivers is shocked to learn about the revelations in the report from the leaked Murum Resettlement Action Plan about the fate of the natives to be displaced by the Murum Dam (which can be found in the Sarawak Report website). They explain how the impoverished Penans are neglected by the government and that the resettlement site is not suitable for them at all.
This is the very reason why SAVE Rivers is against the planned 11 dams which the state government is planning to build across Sarawak’s interior and which will flood thousands of hectares of native customary land and displace thousands of indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories.
SAVE Rivers will continue to provide updates on the blockade situation.
Mark Bujang is secretary of SAVE Rivers