Hornbill Unleashed

October 10, 2012

Sarawak PKR: Unfriendly policies don’t help Murum Penan

Dukau Papau

The problems of Penans affected by construction of the Murum dam will not be resolved as long as state government policies remain unfriendly to them, said Sarawak PKR head Baru Bain.

He said that creating a special ministry to look into the Penans’ problems and demands is of secondary importance.

“You can have a few ministers to look after their problems. But if the ministers are ineffective, there would be no point,” he said.

Bian, a lawyer and the Ba’Kelalan assemblyperson, was commenting on the failure of negotiations between Penan representatives and the state government on pre-conditions for construction of the dam.


Among the Penan demands are compensation of  RM500,000 per family for loss of native customary land; 30,000 ha of land for each village affected; 25 ha for each family, for farming activities; education for children; a community development fund; and the right to their land which is not flooded for the dam.

“While I am pleasantly surprised at the quick and critical response by the ministers to the destruction of the (Santubong) mangrove forest, I cannot help but wish for the same reaction to the suffering of the Penans at the Murum dam.

NONE“(Building the dam) besides causing immense destruction of the environment, (has) resulted in the displacement of numerous Penan communities, destroying their homes, security, (sources of) livelihood and their culture. Surely that deserves a stronger reaction from the authorities.”

He called for serious attention to a report by Liwan Lagang, the state assistant minister for culture and heritage, who has found that the Penans are not happy that their resettlement woes have not been resolved, and that they have not been consulted on compensation and other related issues.

“The state authorities and those mega-contractors handling the Murum dam project must be fair to the affected Penans. It is a damning indictment of this government and the way it treats the most vulnerable,” said Bian.

‘Inaccurate picture’

Quoting replies to questions raised during the August 2009 state assembly sitting, he noted that the EIA report for the Murum Dam had been submitted to the Natural Resources And Environment Board Sarawak on April 30, 2008.

NONEAn expert panel then reviewed it and made recommendations to ensure all environmental issues are adequately addressed.

Citing the replies provided in the legislative assembly, Bian said there had been briefings, consultations and interviews with some 1,000 people affected by the proposed projected ‘and their perceptions were recorded’.

Further consultations were conducted by the Murum Resettlement Committee, formed by the state government, to ensure that the people were ‘adequately informed about the project and to incorporate their opinions and concerns when undertaking the resettlement programme’.

NONEHowever, Bian said this does not present an accurate picture of the situation on the ground “or we would not have theblockadehappening”.

“Unlike the federal Environmental Quality Act 1974, the Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance 1994 (NREO), which regulates EIA processes in Sarawak. excludes public participation in the EIA process, unless the project proponent so desires,” he pointed out.

“This deliberate omission of a fundamental requirement for an EIA to be credible makes a mockery of the whole process, (apart from) the secrecy which surrounds the completed reports. It allows the government to ride roughshod over the marginalised and the weak.”

He called for reform of the NREO and pledged that this would be done if Pakatan Rakyat is voted into power in the state.

The writer, who uses a pseudonym, is based in Sarawak.

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