Unjust to say no road to Ulu Baram if no mega dam

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Participants at a workshop signalling their strong opposition to the Baram Dam - Photograph: SAVE Rivers

If the government is not able to resolve the problem faced by those more than 18,000 from existing dams, how can they expect to satisfactorily resettle those from the proposed Baram dam, asks Save Rivers.

Saying that the building of an access road to Ulu Baram must be subject to the building of a hydroelectric dam sounds like blackmail.

Like any other citizens anywhere in any country, the people of Baram are entitled to infrastructure and all other amenities which the government of day should provide.

If the statement made by James Masing in the Borneo Post (30 June 2017) in a report titled “Masing: No dam, no road” is the official stand of the state government, it is no doubt intimidation and a simplistic view. Blaming the people for opposing the dam amounts to the government’s admission of failing in its democratic responsibility as “the government of the people for the people and by the people”.

The people of Baram have every right to reject the Baram dam and opt for any alternative development that they want. Furthermore, the former Chief Minister of Sarawak, the late Adenan Satem at a press conference on 3 May 2016 (as reported by Channel News Asia) said, “ There is no need to have another big dam we can have mini dams so on, but not a big dam especially when we don’t supply (power) to west Malaysia anymore.”

Based on the 2010 census, Marudi district, which is within the Baram basin, has a population of more than 90,000 people. Those who could be forcefully displaced by the Baram dam are 20,000 indigenous villagers from more than 36 villages.

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If the government is not able to resolve the problem faced by those more than 18,000 from existing dams, how can they expect to satisfactorily resettle those from the proposed Baram dam? The people of Baram are very well aware of the suffering experienced by those who have been forcefully displace by the existing mega dams in Sarawak, and no one should blame them for rejecting the same fate.

Commenting on Masing’s statement in the Borneo Post, William Lisu from Long Palai in Baram said, “It is very simple: No Road – No Vote.”

From Tanjung Tepalit Baram, Dominic Mathew Useh said, “What YB Masing says is not logical and we hope that the government will build the road and bring development to Baram.”

Even after intensive exploitation of timber until Baram is ripped almost completely bare of primary jungle, Baram is left as one of the most undeveloped areas in Malaysia. Elected representatives should always remember that their duty is to serve the electorate. Just being elected does not mean that they can do what they want without due consideration. To ignore taxpaying citizens and their rights is inhumane; it could even be a crime.

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