Breaking News: Penan Protestor Arrested at Murum Dam Impoundment Site

By Tara Holmes, Communications and Development Coordinator for the Borneo Project 

Thursday, October 3, 2013


On the morning of October 3, 2013, Ngang Buling, a Penan from the Murum region of Sarawak, Malaysia, was arrested by Malaysian police for taking part in a peaceful protest at the blockade site of the Murum dam. Buling was taken to the Belaga Police Station for questioning. A group of 20 villagers followed the police vehicles in support of Buling.

“Buling said that he was told that he is to stay there for four days, however, he is not placed under lock up yet,” said Peter Kallang, from SAVE Rivers, “Abun Sui, a human rights lawyer, …is going to Belaga in order to see what could be done.” 

Currently, no update has been received from the protestors, their lawyer, or police on the charges that have been placed on Ngang. During the arrest, roughly 100 villagers, who formed the blockade, asked to be arrested in solidarity with Buling. As a result, according to SAVE Rivers, a policeman named Sufiang fired a gunshot in the air “to stop action of the people.”

This recent blockade is in response to the impoundment of the Murum dam, which began on September 29th. Penan villages adjacent to the dam have not yet been resettled and no agreement has been reached about the terms of their forced resettlement. According to Sarawak Energy Berhad, the government-owned power company, the six villages, home to an estimated 1,500 people, will be flooded within 12 months.

Sarawak Energy, and their CEO Torstein Dale Sjotveit, claim to be on good terms with the Penan of Murum, yet according to the Bruno Manser Fund, Mr. Sjotveit recently yelled at a delegation of Penan from the Murum region who refused to accept the current resettlement terms offered by Sarawak Energy and the Sarawak state government. The Penan delegation, which had been brought by car to a Sarawak Energy camp, was forced to walk home several hours to their longhouses; Mr. Sjotveit also yelled at police officers present at the dam site calling them “cowards” as they refused to take action against the protesters.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been asked to intervene with the Sarawak government to stop the Murum dam impoundment until a reasonable resettlement solution has been achieved. The Borneo Project, alongside the Bruno Manser Fund and SAVE Rivers, calls on the Malaysian police to immediately release Ngang Buling, and to stop construction of the Murum Dam.