Pow-Wow on 12-Dam Project

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Originally published in The Star

KUCHING: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) will bring various stakeholders together next month to discuss the proposed construction of 12 hydroelectric dams in Sarawak.

Commissioner Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria said the dialogue would provide an opportunity for government agencies and the relevant parties to openly discuss the projects and their implications.

"Various groups and parties have raised concerns over the building of the 12 dams," he told reporters after a Suhakam dialogue with NGOs and the media in Sarawak here yesterday.

"Some have supported the projects, others have questioned their sustainability and raised concerns over the environment."

Dr Denison said state agencies, federal ministries, consultants and NGOs representing the affected communities would be invited to participate.

"It will provide an opportunity for people to understand what the government's planning on this is, as well as the concerns raised by environmentalists, civil society and the indigenous people," he said.

He said Suhakam's main concern was the displacement of indigenous communities as a result of the dams.

"Twelve dams means many people will be displaced in the interior, and even heritage sites," he said.

"It's going to affect traditional land, livelihood and the sustainable development of the communities, and Suhakam can provide an environment to debate and discuss these issues," Dr Denison added.

Suhakam will publish its findings based on the discussion, he added.

Fellow commissioner Datuk Dr Michael Yeoh said Suhakam could play an important role - as a bridge between Government, the affected communities, NGOs, and professional consultants and the companies promoting the projects.

"By providing that bridge we can bring people to a roundtable discussion of the issues at hand."