Murum is the second mega-dam project after the highly controversial Bakum dam, and the first of a planned series of twelve new dams.
Free Malaysia Today
Plan for more dams generates dismay in S’wak
The wave of dam-building in Sarawak has created ripples of fear among environmentalists and groups representing indigenous tribes.
By Siva Sithraputhran
MURUM (Sarawak): The trucks that ply the rough road to the Murum dam under construction in Sarawak kick up clouds of dust that obscure the trail and make driving treacherous. Within an hour, at least 40 of them go by, laden with freshly cut timber.
The dam on a tributary of the Rajang river is just the start of a staggeringly ambitious plan to block many of the state’s major waterways by 2020 to tap cheap energy and turn one of Malaysia’s poorest states into a Southeast Asian industrial and energy hub.
Leveraging energy from the state’s numerous rivers and what it calls a strategic location between China and India, planners envisage up to 12 dams by 2020.
But that could leave the state with more than 20 times more energy than it now needs and critics, including opposition politicians, say that Sarawak simply does not need so many hydro-power dams.
The plan is also attracting growing opposition from environmentalists and groups representing indigenous tribes, who say it is an environmental disaster in the making that will enrich an elite few.
Towering over the US$110 billion (RM336 billion) plan – known as the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy, or SCORE – is Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, a 76-year-old patriarch who wields sweeping policymaking powers after three decades in charge of the state.
Critics of the plan question the strategy of producing an amount of energy that is far in excess of current demand, pointing at problems in finding buyers for power from the existing Bakun dam, completed in 2011, that flooded an area the size of Singapore.
Sarawak Energy says the 1,500 villagers displaced by the Murum dam will be suitably resettled and given land they can cultivate. It hasn’t reached a deal on compensation.
The Penan villagers in the Murum blockade were prepared to wait, within sight of the forests that have been crucial for their food and income.
“We’ve never had money in the bank, now we’re losing the rivers, the trees and our livelihoods,” says 60-year old village elder Madai Solo.
|10:08AM Nov 1, 2012|
About 450 villagers from the Baram interior in Sarawak yesterday marched in the town of Long Lama to protest the mammoth Baram hydroelectric dam.
Commencing their march at the Long Lama sub-district office, they carried placards and banners while shouting slogans against the dam in Orang Ulu dialects, said NGO Save Rivers.
According to the NGO’s secretary Mark Bujang, the demonstration was heavily policed, including anti-riot police while a police helicopter was spotted circiling overhead.
“However, no untoward incident happened…,” he said in a statement.
Addressing the crowd at the demonstration was Baram Protection Action Committee chairperson Philip Jau, who urged community leaders to not be “easily manipulated by politicians with vested interests”.
He added that 90 of Orang Ulu community chief Temenggong Pahang Deng’s supporters had in response held a counter-demonstration inside the sub-district office.
Penans have not left their blockades
KUCHING (Oct 28, 2012): Contrary to what has been claimed, Penans from eight villages in Sarawak’s Belaga district have not dismantled their blockades on access roads to the controversial Murum dam.
Sarawak Conservation Alliance of Natural Environment (Scane) coordinator Raymond Abin, who returned to Miri today after an overnight stay at one of the two blockade sites, said that the situation remains as it is and the international community is monitoring the issue.
“Over the last two days, many of them went back to Long Luar, one of the eight villages, because an elderly man died and later an elderly woman from Long Singu also died,” he said.
He said that the Penans who have gone to the two villages will return after the mourning period is over. “But there are some still left to man the blockades,” Abin said.
Abin stressed that not only are world bodies watching the matter, but also concerned Malaysians and those affected by the dam projects in Sarawak.
He was commenting on Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing’s statement on Saturday that 320 Penan have abandoned the blockades after their negotiations with Belaga state assemblyman Liwan Lagang.
Long Jaik longhouse chief Matu Tugang, “We used to support the government but now we don’t know who to choose.…Who we will choose, we don’t know. We never rejected the government… it is the government that has rejected us.”
NRD came in 2009, but still no MyKad
The problem has been worsened by the citizenship woes of the natives. According to the Hydroelectric Dam Project Social and Environmental Impact Assessment Report, only 60 percent of the Penan have birth certificates.
In addition, 80 percent of the same population do not have MyKad.
The report also states that 41 percent of those without MyKad had applied for this in 2009, but to no avail.
Senang said officers from the National Registration Department (NRD) visited the Long Luar longhouse where he lives and the residents put in their MyKad applications.
“They came to our longhouse to get our applications, but the MyKad are still not ready. They keep giving all kinds of excuses for this.
“We took our receipts (which serve as temporary MyKad) and they told us to wait. Then they told us that the MyKad are at the NRD’s Asap office. We went to Asap and they told us to wait – because the MyKad are in Bintulu,” he lamented.
Free Malaysia Today
IGP must stop his boys from provoking Penans
The Royal Malaysian Police force needs to be educated on human rights and perspective of the people’s struggle, claims Suaram.
KUALA LUMPUR: Human rights NGO, Suaram, has called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ismail Omar to warn his men not to interfere in the Penan tribe’s rights struggle in the Murum dam issue in Sarawak.
“In order to bring the credibility to the force, they should be seen as a neutral party and not to take the side of the oppressor.
“People resort to the blockade as an option to stop destruction of their livelihood as the construction of the dam progresses. Is this a criminal offence?” asked Suaram in a statement issued today.
Suaram was commenting on a statement by Sibu police chief DSP Bakar Sebau who warned protesting Penan natives that criminal action will be taken against them if they continued to mount blockades on the accesses road leading to the controversial Murum dam project site.
Police in Sibu are appealing to Penans who have set up a road block at Sungai Seping, near the entrance to the Murum hydro dam project in Belaga, to stop such activities.
District police chief DSP Bakar Sebau said action can be taken against them under Section 143 or 147 of the Criminal Procedure Code for illegal assembly or taking part in a riot.
“We will not hesitate to take action against those taking the law into their own hands by setting up the road block or those inciting others to carry out such action, if there was strong evidence.
“It is best for them to sit with the government,” he said in an email received today.
A team of Malaysiakini journalists visited the site early this week where they met Senang Kalang, 27, who vowed that no lorry carrying construction materials for the dam would be allowed to pass the barricade.
EXCLUSIVE A barricade of thick ropes, three empty wooden barrels and planks of timber greets lorry drivers approaching the Long Jaik longhouse near Sungai Seping in remote Belaga, deep in the jungles of Sarawak.
The Penan put up the blockade – about one kilometre from their Long Jaik longhouse – on Sept 25, with 300 people manning the make-shift checkpoint since then.
Their numbers are now down to 30 people a day, who nevertheless doggedly carry out their duties around-the-clock.
Free Malaysia Today
‘Penans protesting against dam since 2009′
Senior Minister Awang Tengah Ali Hassan’s claim that NGOs with ‘ulterior motives’ are misleading the Penan community has showed up his ignorance, says SAVE Rivers Network.
Miri: SAVE Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) a coalition of a number of non-governmental organisations, has slammed the Second Resource Management and Environment Awang Tengah Ali Hassan who claimed that the Penans in Murum have been led astray by certain quarters with ulterior motives.
“It is utterly false to say that the Penans are being made use of by NGOs,” said Peter Kallang, chairperson of SAVE Rivers, adding that it showed up his ignorance.
“The indigenous Penan communities of Murum Dam have been against this mega-project from the beginning in 2009 when a group of Penans had sent a petition saying no to the dam to the Chief Minister of Sarawak.
“Some petitioners were arrested instead. So to say that the villagers are being made used of by NGOs is utterly false,” he said.
The Penans are from Long Wat, Long Luar, Long Tangau, Long Menapa, Long Singu and Long Malim villages, which are located upstream, and from Long Peran and Long Jaik in the downstream of the project site
Free Malaysia Today
Penans protest Murum dam project
Penans from 18 villagers, some coming from as far as 100km interior, have banded together to block the access way to the Murum dam project site.
MIRI: For the third day running about 200 Penans from eight villages have blockaded the access road to the construction site of the Murum hydroelectric dam project.
Their aim is to stop workers from Sarawak Energy Bhd and other companies from going to the site and to get the government to listen to their plight.
The Penans have mounted the blockade on the access road to the dam at Seping River Bridge, about 40km from the Murum dam project site.
Some pre-mix cement tankers, lorry trucks and trailers transporting building materials to the dam site have been forced to pull over and park at the road side.
|11:55AM Sep 28, 2012|
Hundreds of Penans reportedly staged a blockade against the controversial Murum dam project on Wednesday, said a Sarawak NGO.
“The Penans set up the blockade on the access road to the dam at Seping River Bridge, about 40km from the Murum HEP dam project site.
“At least 200 Penans are at the blockade site carrying placards and banners bearing the slogan ‘We Want Justice’, ‘We Demands Our Rights’, ‘Stop Murum Dam’, ‘Sarawak Energy (SEB) No Entry’.
“Some of the Penans had to travel more than 100km from the remote village of Long Malim to join the other Penans at the blockade site.
“There were also some women and children who joined the blockade,” said Raymond Abin, national coordinator for Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (Scane) in a statement last night.
According to Abin, the blockade, that has left construction vehicles heading to the dam stranded, will continue until the authorities meet them to discuss their plight.
…despite fierce resistance to the dam construction work has continued and is about 70 percent complete, and scheduled for completion early next year.
The dam, when filled, is expected to flood 24,500 hectares (245 km2) of Penan native customary land and forest.
Murum is the second mega-dam project after the highly controversial Bakumdam, and the first of a planned series of twelve new dams.
The second, Baram, is already in the works and is expected to drown another 26 villages and displace an estimate 20,000 locals.