Penan ask Norwegian manager to respect their rights
The community of Ling Item is willing to defend their river against the proposed Baram dam
(SARAWAK, MALAYSIA) The six Penan communities of Long Lutin, Long Pakan, Long Lilim, Ba Abang, Long Kawi and Long Item have sent letters to Torstein Dale Sjotveit, CEO of Sarawak Energy (SEB), the Malaysian power supplier in charge of the implementation of Sarawak’s dam projects, demanding that a stop be put to all further work on the proposed Baram mega-dam. The people are against Torstein Dale Sjotveit’s plans for the dam, since the 1,200 MW Baram dam would flood their ancestral lands and villages, affecting a total of 20,000 natives and a rainforest area of over 400 km2.
“My husband, my children and my brothers and sisters, we will not survive if they build the Baram dam. It is better to kill us with a knife right away than to build the dam”, whispers an old woman at Long Lilim in despair. Another villager asks: “They tell us that the dam will bring development. But how can drowning us be development?”
Torstein Dale Sjotveit is going ahead with his dam projects despite these concerns. He seems to be prepared to violate international social and environmental standards: forcing such mega-projects through without the agreement of the affected communities runs counter to standards like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Equator Principles, which Torstein Dale Sjotveit himself claims to comply with.
The Penan communities of Middle Baram have never been given any information about the plan to flood their lands and displace those living there, and have certainly never been consulted on the matter. If they had had the chance to participate, Torstein Dale Sjotveit would be aware of the fact that the Penan want genuine development and not dams, as the headman of Long Pakan states: “If they want to develop us, they should build a proper road for us, clinics and schools, this is what we want. We don’t want to be flooded.”
To hear the original demands being voiced in Baram, you can watch the following short clips:
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