Sarawak Natives State Conditions for Lifting Baram Dam Blockade | The Malaysian Insider

Desmond Davidson
Saturday, August 8, 2015
The blockade at the site of the proposed Baram dam.
The blockade at the site of the proposed Baram dam.

This article was originally published in The Malaysian Insider.

Ethnic tribespeople against the proposed Baram hydroelectric dam want the Sarawak government to meet a few conditions before they lift their year-long blockade of the proposed dam site.

Mark Bujang, secretary of the group Save Rivers, said based on feedback received on Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem's request to lift the blockade, the people wanted a written assurance from the government that the project would not proceed.

He added that they also wanted the government to return the land acquired for the project.

“They want something in black and white.

“They are wary because they are aware of what the government did to the Penan who were displaced in the construction of the Murum dam,” Bujang told reporters at the national-level International Day of the World's Indigenous People in Kuching.

The Penan reportedly lifted their blockade of the Murum dam site to pave the way for talks on their compensation demands.

The Penan never got the RM500,000 compensation they demanded for each family displaced and the dam was completed.

Adenan told the natives in Long Lama on July 31 that he was willing to listen to their grouses against the RM4 billion dam.

As a sign of his good faith, he ordered state power company, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), to halt all preliminary work on the dam but in return had requested the tribespeople to reciprocate by lifting the blockade.

Peter Kallang, who chairs Save Rivers – the group spearheading a coalition of NGOs against the dam –  earlier said he would give Adenan their decision on the blockade before the end of the month.

The tribespeople had erected two barricades at Long Kesseh and Long Lama in October last year to block the only two roads to the proposed site.

The dam – designed to generate 1,300 megawatts of electricity for the power-guzzling industries in the state's industrial belt, the Sarawak Corridor for Renewable Energy – could submerge 400 sq km of their rainforest if built, effectively displacing about 20,000 people.