Kuching — About 50 indigenous people from the Baram area delivered a petition of thousands of signatures to the Chief Minister of Sarawak today at Wisma Bapa Malaysia, the State Secretariat building, reports SAVE Rivers.
The people were representing at least 18 longhouses from Upper and Middle Baram.
The petitions are in protest of the plans to build a mega-dam which would flood half the size of Singapore. Thousands of Baram residents would be forced to move away from their ancestral lands, homes and farms, to accommodate the mega dam.
Affected resident and president of Jaringan Orang Asal seMalaysia or Indigenous Peoples’ Network of Malaysia (JOAS) Thomas Jalong of Long Anap, Baram views with grave concern the planned construction of the mega dam because of its potential adverse implications, particularly on the rights, livelihoods and future of the indigenous people of the area.
“The dam would inevitably submerge our ancestral homelands of more than 20000 people and in the process would forcibly displace us from our homes. We would also be unjustly deprived of our lands, sources of livelihood and sustenance, facing an uncertain future,” Thomas Jalong said.
“To us indigenous peoples, our ancestral land is a link to our past, present and future generations. Land is not only regarded as an economic resource but is fundamental to our social, cultural, spiritual and political identity and survival,” Thomas added.
Peter Kallang, chairperson of Save Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers), a coalition formed by indigenous peoples and NGOs to stop the 12 planned mega dams, in Sarawak says, “This clearly shows that the majority of the Baram people do not want the dam.”
“If you look at the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Undrip) that Malaysia has agreed to adopt, the plan for constructing the dams has to stop immediately and all work on the access roads to the dams including the soil studies has to be stopped,” Peter adds.
Philip Jau of the Baram Protection Action Committee says, “The government has not been transparent at all with actual plans of the Baram mega dam. They have not asked the people what they think about the plans for the dam, but instead have commenced plans to start surveys for the access roads. We do want development and roads but we do not want an access road built specifically for the mega dam. This is not what we want.”
“When we met with the Superintendent of Lands and Survey, Miri, he did not mention the building of the access road or the reason the road is being built. This is an example of how they continue not to be transparent with their plans,” Philip Jau stressed.
Philip Jau hopes that the government would listen to the voices of the Baram residents and stop all building related to the Baram mega dam, hence the handover of the petition today.
Prior to the handing of the petition, at least 150 people attended a forum organised by Save Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) on native customary lands and mega dams in Sarawak on Monday (17 September) at Telang Usan Hotel. Speakers spoke on the rights of indigenous peoples, especially in relation to land, and the socio-economic impact of the mega dams.
18 September 2012