Penan man from a Murum Dam affected village

Sarawak Energy Publishes “Facts” About the Murum Dam

Kirk Herbertson
Sunday, October 28, 2012

In October 2012, Sarawak Energy distributed a factsheet on the Murum Dam in response to public criticism about ongoing human rights violations at the project site. It is one of the first times that the company has released any information about the project to the public. In the factsheet, Sarawak Energy claimed that it has followed international standards in building the Murum Dam, including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Equator Principles, and the Performance Standards of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC). 

A closer look reveals that the factsheet is misleading and inaccurate. Please download our full commentary below. The people affected by the Murum Dam are already experiencing a violation of their human rights, including: 

Lack of free, prior and informed consent

Contrary to what the factsheet claims, Sarawak Energy has not provided indigenous communities with an opportunity to grant or withhold their free, prior and informed consent for the project. Sarawak Energy claims that the communities agreed to the new resettlement sites, and that this is proof of consent. Several communities dispute this claim. Even in cases where there was agreement, however, it was neither free from coercion, nor prior to the start of the construction, nor informed by access to information about the project’s impacts.

Flawed social and environmental impact assessment (SEIA)

International standards—including the Equator Principles and the IFC Performance Standards—universally require that the SEIA must be completed during the design phase, before the government approves the project and before construction begins. This was not the case with the Murum Dam Project. The Sarawak government has not yet disclosed the Murum Dam Project’s SEIA to the public or to the affected communities. To the contrary, Sarawak Energy’s factsheet indicates that the SEIA is not even finished, although the project is only months away from being completed. Because the affected communities did not have access to information about the project’s impacts, they were placed in an unfair and uninformed situation when the Sarawak government asked them to negotiate a resettlement package.

Failure to allow the indigenous communities to choose their own development path

Sarawak Energy’s factsheet highlights a number of ways that the government plans to modernize the affected indigenous communities and improve their lives. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples explicitly recognizes that indigenous communities should have a voice in their own development, including the design of any housing, economic, and social programs on their behalf. By selecting these types of programs without the communities’ consent, the Sarawak government is again violating their rights.

As construction on the dam is nearly completed, urgent measures are now required to remedy the human rights violations that have occurred. The indigenous communities affected by the Murum Dam Project have already issued a memorandum describing how the government could still remedy the situation.  However, the Sarawak government has thus far refused to meet these requests.

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