Thirty years on, native victims of the Batang Ai and Bakun dams are still waiting for compensations and lands promised to them in return for their relocation.
Unresolved issues as a result of broken promises made to natives displaced by the Batang Ai and Bakun hydro-electric dams should serve as a “warning” to settlers who are yet to be affected by the construction of dams in Baram and other places in Sarawak.
Despite 30 long years, as in the case of Batang Ai, and 14 years in Bakun’s case, the problems with the settlers have not been resolved.
Said Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian: “I would like to urge our people, especially those who are yet to be affected by the construction of the dams, to bear in mind what have happened to the people who have been displaced by the Batang Ai and Bakun dams.
“As long as they are the same [Barisan Nasional] people at the top, their promises will never be fulfilled.”
Bian was commenting on a news report highlighting unresolved issues and unfilled promises made 14 years ago by the Taib Mahmud government to native settlers in return for their relocating from their ancestral homes. The exercise was to enable the construction of the Bakun Dam.
More than 9,000 people from the Kayan, Kenyah and Penan communities who are now resettled at Sungai Asap are still clamouring for the fulfilment of the promises made in exchange for their submerged longhouses and land.
Five longhouses belonging to the Ukit community are still left stranded in the Ulu Balui. They too have claimed that they have not been compensated for the loss of their longhouses and land.
Their leader, Ngajang Midin, said the government owned him more than RM100,000.
Bian, who is the Ba’Kelalan Assemblyman, said: “The recent events unfolding at Bakun, Bengoh and Baram areas tell a sorry tale about the tragedy brought about by the government’s reckless disregard of the people in its haste to satisfy the greed of certain powerful parties.
“The people of Sungai Asap are still waiting for the promises of the government to be fulfilled 14 years after they were relocated to make way for the Bakun Dam.
“Initially they were promised 15 acres per family, but they were eventually given only three acres.
“They also claim to have been shortchanged on other promises of cash compensation, housing materials and scholarship from the Bakun Trust Fund.
“In the Bengoh area, timber licences were issued for land that was allocated to the people for resettlement, creating great distress and anger to those who had already suffered the trauma of the loss of their land and livelihood,” he said.
‘Lying BN government’
Bian said that as for the Baram dam, although BN politicians had tried to convince the public that the people in the area support the building of the dam, this is far from the truth.
“There have been protests by the people determined not to suffer the same fate as those whose lives were destroyed by the Batang Ai, Bakun and Bengoh dams,” he said, adding that two police reports had been lodged against contractors Sarawak Energy Bhd for trespassing on native customary rights (NCR) land to start works on the Baram dam.
“In my visits to the area, I was told by 40 longhouse representatives that 95% of the people oppose the building of the dam,” he said.
Bian also said the BN government has made numerous other promises which have yet to see the light of day, including hospitals in Limbang and Petra Jaya, which have yet to be built.
“I saw billboards mushrooming everywhere proclaiming ‘janji ditepati’ and these are but another attempt to mislead the people.
“In the face of broken promises and mistreatment of the people by this government, the BN politicians have no qualms about accusing the opposition of being liars and making empty promises to win the hearts of the rakyat.
“I have been told to stay out of Limbang by the incumbent MP as the people would not fall for the opposition’s lies. For me, that’s not for the political leaders like us to decide but the rakyat’s prerogatives.
“Whether we are telling lies or not is for the rakyat to judge. Never underestimate the wisdom of the rakyat,” he said.