Villagers who would be affected by the proposed Baram Dam project lodged a police report denying they had given their agreement to their community leaders for the dam to be built. Read more below about these claims of abuse of power and what these community leaders have to say about the report.
Read more on The Malaysian Insider
Even before a tree could be felled or a brick laid, the proposed multi-billion ringgit hydroelectric dam in Baram in the state’s interior is already tearing apart communities affected by it and pitting them against their leaders.
Three of the six people, who on November 12, filed a civil suit in the Miri High Court against Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and the government over two plots of their Native Customary Rights (NCR) land that had been requisitioned by the government for the construction of the dam, lodged a police report in Miri on Saturday denying they had given their agreement to their community leaders for the dam to be built.
Anyi Eng and Edward Jok Wan from Long Na’ah and Malang Laing from Long Kesseh – two of the villages that would be affected by the dam project – claimed their community leaders had failed in their duty to discuss and hear their views on the proposed dam.
The trio, who were accompanied by about a hundred fellow villagers to lodge the report at the Miri central police station, added that by doing so, their community leaders were not respecting their rights and not caring about their welfare.
They said they are prepared to take legal action against those who they claimed have “abused their power and position for their selfish interest”.
Anyi, Jok, Malang together with Engan Engan, Anyi Ajang and Wan Jok, named Taib, in his capacity as Minister of Resource Planning and Environment, as the first defendant and the state government as the second defendant in their suit.
The six, who claimed they represented Kayan and Kenyah villagers affected by the project, had engaged the services of high profile Orang Ulu lawyer, environmentalist and former Member of Parliament, Harrison Ngau.
Ngau said the November 12 filing was the first of “at least two cases” where NCR landowners are challenging the constitutionality of Section 5(3) and 5(4) of the Sarawak Land Code.
“We are saying that the natives are part and parcel of the ancestral land and their rights over the land cannot be extinguished, and that Section 5(3) and 5(4) violated their right to the land,” Ngau told reporters.
“The land, being their source of life, cannot be taken away or be extinguished by such law.”
The two plots of land are about 4,000 hectares in total size.
A day after the suit was filed, community leaders condemned the six for filing it, saying it was an irresponsible act “of a few villagers”.
The community leaders, who said they represented 14 villages, said such an action was also against the Kayan and Kenyah culture and they would take appropriate action against the six for “not seeking consent and approval” from them before filing the suit.
The Kayans, Kenyahs, Penans and a dozen of ethnic groups living in the highlands and Baram river basin are generally classified as Orang Ulus.
They are often considered the least confrontational and aggressive of all the state’s ethnic groups.
The Sarawak government considers the Baram dam crucial to its plan to lure high-tech, energy-guzzling multi-national companies to the state industrial belt known as the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score).
The Baram dam, the second of 12 the government plans to build, has the capacity to generate between 1,000Mw and 1,200Mw.
The first, Murum dam, is almost completed.
Baram dam would submerge 400sq km of land and about 20,000 ethnic tribes people, mainly Kayans, Kenyahs and Penans from 32 villages, would be displaced.
The state power company, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) had said power from the mammoth Bakun hydroelectric dam, which could generate 2,400Mw of electricity, have all been sold and electricity generated from the 944Mw Murum dam is also nearly all taken up.
SEB said there is a long list of potential industries still negotiating for cheap electricity for their plants.
Bakun, the second tallest concrete-faced rockfill dam in the world, belonged to the Finance Ministry. It was once dismissed by anti-dam critics as a “mammoth white elephant”.
Davidson, Desmond. “Natives taking legal action deny they agreed to Baram dam, report lodged.” The Malaysian Insider. 17 Nov 2013. <http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/natives-taking-legal-action-deny-they-agreed-to-baram-dam-report-lodged>.