Princess Anne asked to speak out for communities displaced by Murum Dam

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Princess Anne visited the Sarawak Energy headquarters on 30 October 2016 - Photograph: Malay Mail Online

The communities displaced by the Murum Dam are still waiting to receive farmland. NGOs are now asking Britain’s Princess Anne for help as she visited dam builder Sarawak Energy in late 2016, reports Save Rivers.

Civil society groups have informed Britain’s Princess Anne about how the rights of the Penan and the Kenyah have been neglected for the construction of the Murum Dam in northern Sarawak, Malaysia.

In a letter sent last week, NGOs explained that Sarawak Energy, Sarawak’s power supplier, withheld information about the situation at the resettlement sites when Princess Anne visited their headquarters in Kuching in late 2016. The groups want to correct Sarawak Energy’s biased presentation and inform the princess about the reality of indigenous and human rights violations.

During visits to the resettlement sites of Tegulang and Metalun, NGOs learned all of the families are still waiting to receive the promised 14 hectares of land per family for farming.

Peter Kallang, chairman of the local grassroots network Save Rivers, said: “It is totally inacceptable that the resettled people are still waiting to receive farmland after three years. How are they supposed to make a living? There are hardly any job opportunities at the resettlement sites. We sincerely hope that Princess Anne will raise these concerns with Sarawak Energy.”

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The NGOs also informed Princess Anne about the lack of free, prior and informed consent as well as the delayed social and environmental impact assessment (SEIA) in the process leading to the construction of the Murum Dam.

Since resettlement, the communities have not only been denied farmland, they have also been deprived of access to primary forest for hunting. As a result, Sarawak Energy and the Sarawak Government are neglecting the people’s right to choose their own development path. Furthermore, there is no effective grievance mechanism in place that would allow the communities to raise these issues with the government and Sarawak Energy.

A similar letter was sent to the CEO of the International Hydro Power Association (IHA), Richard Taylor. During the IHA Congress in Kuching in 2013, Taylor promised that he would mediate between Sarawak Energy and dam opponents.

During the congress, the government and Sarawak Energy promised fair and appropriate treatment of resettled communities, and released the Murum resettlement action plan. Many of these promises, such as the 14 hectares of land per household, remain unfulfilled.

The NGOs ask Princess Anne and Richard Taylor to advocate for the Penan and Kenyah displaced by the Murum Dam. Sarawak Energy and the Sarawak government must immediately provide farmland to the suffering communities.

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