Sarawak natives take to the street over dam plans
People affected by the proposed Baram dam spontaneously went to the streets today in order to express their disconsent with the government's hydro-electric dam plans when they heard that Senator Lihan was planning to hold a prayer session to bless the Baram dam site next weekend. The Save Sarawak's Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) which unites affected communities and concerned organisations and individuals released the following statement:
SAVE Rivers hold demonstration in front of hotel to send message to community leaders to reject Baram Dam
MIRI – Members of Save Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) and some concerned citizens held a peaceful demonstration in front of a leading hotel here to send a strong message to the community leaders meeting with Senator Lihan Jok at the hotel to reject the Baram Hydro-electric Dam Project.
Earlier on, church leaders were also invited to attend the meeting with the Senator.
About 30 people turned up for the demonstration and even under heavy police presence they clearly stated their displeasure at the Sarawak State Government’s insistence to go forward with the controversial dam project.
According to the Chairman of SAVE Rivers, Mr. Peter Kallang, “We in the SAVE Rivers Network have just come back from our visit to various longhouses in Baram. At our meetings with them and during private interviews which are electronically recorded (on audio and video), practically all of the villagers do not want the dam to be built.”
Peter stressed that he does not want to see their community and church leaders being used and abused by the government to force the people to accept the dam project.
“If the government is sincere in bringing development and power supply to the rural areas why don’t they develop micro-hydro projects?” questioned Peter.
“We do not want this sort of destructive project which permanently destroy the environment and deprive our people of their land and properties. This is not the so called ‘development’ we want.” added Peter.
Mr. Philip Jau from Baram Protection Action Committee (BPAC) which is also one of the community based organisation in SAVE Rivers Network said that the government has been very secretive in dealing with the people in Baram to get them to agree to the dam project.
“The people of Baram really oppose this dam project. We don’t oppose development per say, but the dam project is not the development we want and any development projects being put forward by the government should be done in a transparent and just manner.” said Philip.
Mr. Mark Bujang from Borneo Resources Institute, Malaysia (BRIMAS) also one of the NGOs in the SAVE Rivers Network questioned the State Government on the status of the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment studies.
“Why does the government want the Baram Dam to be built urgently, when these studies are yet to be carried out?” questioned Mark.
The meeting called by Senator Lihan is to prepare for a prayer session to be held at the proposed dam site between Long Kesseh and Long Na’ah which will be held on Saturday 21 April 2012.
Senator Lihan is formerly the State Assemblyman for the constituency of Telang Usan, where the proposed Baram Dam is going to be located.
During the last state election, Senator Lihan was dropped as the incumbent but was recently appointed as a Senator in the Upper House of the Malaysian Parliament.
This is the same person that courted controversy when he mentioned to the people in Baram that the dam is a ‘gift from God’. He also courted controversy previously with his suggestion to change the name of Orang Ulu to Lun Daya of which the Orang Ulu community strongly condemned.
The demonstration started at 2 pm and lasted for half and hour before the police told the demonstrators to disperse.
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