Workshop participants strongly oppose proposed Baram Dam

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They totally disagree with their community leaders or community associations who say the people of Baram have already accepted the proposed dam, reports SAVE Rivers Network.

Workshop participants signalling their strong opposition to the dam - Photograph: SAVE Rivers

LONG SAN, Baram – About 60 participants, representing their respective villages from Upper Baram, Patah, Akah and Silat rivers strongly voiced their objection to the proposed Baram Hydro-electric Dam Project after attending a one-and-a-half-day workshop organised by Save Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) at Long San village.

The objective workshop, entitled “Empowering the Community to Assert their Rights”, was to educate the communities affected by the proposed dam project about their fundamental rights under the Federal Constitution, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (Undrip) and the concept of Native Customary Rights (NCR) under the Sarawak Land Code.

The workshop also touched on good governance and government policy on customary land development. It encouraged the participants to voice out their concerns and demands with regards to the proposed dam project.

SAVE Rivers is happy to note the positive response to the workshop which began last Thursday evening (17 May) and ended on Saturday (19 May).

During the group discussions, most of the participants raised the issue of not being consulted by the relevant authorities or by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) and their consultants.

The participants were also angry with the way their community leaders, elected representatives and Senator Lihan Jok were “bulldozing” their way through with the project and lying to the public that the people of Baram have accepted it.

The participants were equally appalled when they found out through the local media that Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu had announced that the resettlement site for the affected villagers had been identified somewhere near the Murum and Bakun area when only a few weeks ago, Senator Lihan was quoted as saying that the proposed dam was still a proposal and the decision to approve the project was still pending.

From the outcome of the workshop, the resolution made by the participants were:

  • They strongly oppose the proposed Baram hydroelectric dam project and demand that it be scrapped;
  • They demand that all the survey and drilling work done by SEB or their contractors or their agents be stopped immediately;
  • They want their voices to be heard and their rights to be respected;
  • They totally disagree with their community leaders or community associations such as the Federation of Orang Ulu Association Malaysia (Forum), which says that the people of Baram have already accepted the proposed dam project;
  • They do not want people who are not affected by the proposed dam project to make statements and decide on behalf of their community;
  • They do not want their customary lands, crops, properties, burial grounds, and ancestral sites to be flooded;
  • They do not believe that the proposed dam project will benefit them as the issues of Batang Ai, Bakun, Bengoh and Murum have not yet been resolved by the authorities; and
  • They demand that community leaders who are only interested in listening to their political masters and not the voices of the people resign immediately.

The participants also signed a protest letter and will forward it to SEB and the relevant authorities.

SAVE Rivers will continue to conduct workshops and roadshows throughout Baram District to educate the people about the proposed dam project.

The villages that were represented were Long San, Long Liam, Long Na’ah, Long Selawan, Long Anap, Long Selatong Dikan, Long Selatong Tanjung Tepalit, Long Tap, Long Je’eh, Long Beku, Long Bee, Long Apu and Long Moh.

Peter Kallang is chairman of SAVE Rivers

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