Hornbill Unleashed

October 20, 2012

International Solidarity Builds Behind The Murum Penan

Sarawak Report

No engagement, just one demand that Hydro-Tasmania pull out of Sarawak!

As the Penan people of Murum enter the fourth week of their blockade against the Murum Dam, local and international NGOs have rallied to their support.

On Friday protestors, surrounded by news reporters, gathered outside Hydro-Tasmania’s impressive tower block headquarters in Hobart to demand that the company cease its lucrative partnership programme with Sarawak Energy.[click for video]

Hydro-Tasmania has been exposed for providing expert assistance and managerial staff for Sarawak Energy, a role it had earlier attempted to dismiss as a minor involvement.

However, as we have now revealed, Sarawak Energy has claimed in its own reports that the involvement of Hydro-Tasmania and the secondment of critical management staff are “essential” to its programme of fulfilling Taib Mahmud’s selfish and destructive ambitions to construct 12 more dams in the Borneo Rainforest, which will displace tens of thousands of indigenous people.

Letters to the Australian Foreign Minister and to Tasmanian Premier

The protest in Hobart marked action by a group of NGOs, who have sent formal letters to the Australian Foreign Minister, Robert Carr and to the Tasmanian Premier, Lara Giddings demanding that Hydro-Tasmania cease its assistance for Taib Mahmud’s dam building activities.

These NGOs include the highly respected International Rivers, Bruno Manser Fund, Rainforest Action Network, JATAN and many others

Rainforest NGOs from across the world have protested to the Australian and Tasmanian government

In their letters the NGOs say they are extremely concerned that Hydro-Tasmania has seen fit to become involved in a dam building exercise that has so clearly violated Australia’s commitments on human and indigenous rights as signatories to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Tasmanian environment groups, who have been questioning the logging activities of Taib’s cousin, Hamed Sepawi, in their native jungle, are now expressing their solidarity with the Murum Penan about to be flooded by Sarawak Energy, of which Hamed Sepawi is also Chairman.

In particular they point out that Sarawak state government officials have taken until now to announce their resettlement plans for the Penan in the Murum area.

This is 5 years after construction was begun and only a few weeks before the completion is due.

Under UNDRIP these resettlement plans should have been fully publicised and properly negotiated with the affected peoples BEFORE any construction took place.

The belated fait accompli has clearly been in response to the fact that we have already released a leaked version on our site.

It was the extreme meanness and insufficiency of these leaked resettlement and compensation plans, which have forced the Penan to take up the blockade.  Until now they had been in the dark, they have told reporters, with various promises being made, but nothing signed. The secret plans amount to nothing less than ethnic genocide for these communities and they realise they have no option but to protest.

“For several years, Hydro Tasmania has closely worked with Sarawak Energy Berhad. Sarawak Energy hired Hydro Tasmania’s subsidiary Entura to do an overall assessment of expanding the capacity of the Batang Ai dam (built in the 1980s) in 2009 and a review of the Bakun dam in 2010. Furthermore, Entura conducted the feasibility studies on proposed dams such as Belaga, Pelagus and Metjawah between 2008 and 2009 and even discovered another potential dam site. Entura also advised repeatedly on matters concerning the Murum Dam”.[Letter to Bob Carr from NGOs]


The US based Borneo Project has also taken up our petition against the Murum Dam. To join the petition Click Here

Thankful for support. The Murum Penan were filmed this week by a number of reporters who went to visit the site. This was what they said to Taib Mahmud.

[Click for latest video from the blockade – in between the logging trucks]

Meanwhile Tasmania’s Huon Valley Environment Centre, which has protested against logging of their wild forests for Ta Ann (owned by Taib’s cousin Hamed Sepawi), made a media announcement expressing their solidarity with the people of Murum.

The story has been carried by news agencies across Australia: Channel 9;Daily Telegraphthe AustralianNew.com.

Swaggering Hydro-Tasmania comes under pressure

While this support and attention will give great heart to the native Penan in Murum, for the first time it seems to be creating anxiety inside Hydro-Tasmania’s HQ.  Company executives, after first dismissing the protests this Friday, then came out and said they wished to “engage”.  The protestors refused unless Hydro-Tasmania ends its involvement in Sarawak!

Hydro-Tasmania has claimed that it only acts to the highest benchmarks of corporate responsibility and sustainability – so why are the Penan of Murum so upset about not being consulted or satisfied with their settlement?

Up till now, the state owned company has met concerns about its involvement with the corrupt government of Taib Mahmud and his outrageous and illegal assault on the Borneo environment and its indigenous people with aggressive swagger.

The company erupted in fury when the Australian current affairs programme Datelineraised the issue in a ground-breaking report that was later carried by Al Jazeera.

Chief Executive, Roy Adair, stormed into a radio station and announced that Sarawak Energy was a body of the “highest integrity” for Hydro-Tasmania to do business with. However, when pressed he could provide no evidence that his company had properly investigated this issue, except to “pre-check” that it had joined the International Hydo-Power Association (which it had not at the time).

Meanwhile, Chairman David Crean telephoned the Chairman of the SBS TV company and demanded an immediate retraction of the programme on the basis that Hydro-Tasmania’s involvement in Sarawak was ‘minimal’.

This does not excuse Hydro-Tasmania under international obligations of due diligence when doing business with regimes that are violating human rights, however the programme capitulated and issued an apology, saying the report was ‘unbalanced’.

Children with no school to go to. Tasmania has seconded Nick Wright to act as the Corporate and Social Responsibility boss at Sarawak Energy, so why have not basic compensation arrangements including proper schools, clinics and compensation already been put in place before the building of this dam?

This week, Hydro-Tasmania’s pet Senator, Eric Abetz, also took advantage of a sitting of the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee to give a prolonged lashing to an SBS company representative, demanding that staff should take the ‘blame’ at SBS and that the veteran and award-winning reporter on the show should be “re-trained”!  [Click here for transcript of Abetz attack, page 65 onwards].

When the SBS executive pointed out that the five mistakes identified in the report had turned out to be minor (for example a former Sarawak Senator had been referred to as if he was a current Sarawak Senator), Abetz insisted that SBS agree that the whole programme was “wrong”.  This the SBS executive refused to do.

Not once, up till yesterday, had Hydro-Tasmania allowed to the slightest degree that there might be possible concerns about its involvement in assisting Taib Mahmud push through his controversial and destructive dam campaign in a country mired by corruption and human rights abuses.

However, as the brave Murum Penan have stepped up their blockades and international NGOs have come to their support, the pressure against Hydro-Tasmania’s protestations of innocence has started to build.

Sarawak Energy are ‘wrong’ says Hydro-Tasmania

In fact yesterday Hydro-Tasmania was even forced to announce that its partner Sarawak Energy was “wrong” to ‘exaggerate” its role in its dam programme.

The company’s communications representative informed the protestors and reporters outside its building that claims in Sarawak Energy’s Annual Report that Hydro-Tasmania has played an “essential” role by filling “critical management positions” and bringing the skill and expertise were incorrect! For example, perhaps, in making this statement in their 2010 Annual Report:

“The recruitment of expatriates acknowledges the reality that there are skills that are both essential to SEB’s achievement of the SCORE agenda and not yet available in SEB or Sarawak” [2010 SEB Annual Report]

So, according to Hydro-Tasmania, not only was Sarawak Report wrong, not only was Dateline wrong, not only are dozens of NGOs wrong, not only are the poor indigenous and affected Penan wrong, but also its own partners in Sarawak Energy are now also wrong!

Sarawak Energy may have declared in its annual report that its partnership with Hydro-Tasmania involves “a number of co-development agreements for specific hydropower projects” and Hydro-Tasmania employees may have been seconded as project directors and as Vice-Presidents to Sarawak Energy, but Hydro-Tasmania is determined that for its partner to describe its role as “essential” was wrong!

(from Hydro Tasmania’s Annual Report) Hydro-Tasmania Chairman, David Crean, lines up with fellow partners Planning Minister Awang Tenga and Chair of Sarawak Energy (and Ta Ann) Hamed Sepawi over its deal with Sarawak Energy

Time for the politicians and people of Australia to decide

Hydro-Tasmania is a publicly owned company that is looking to be privatised.  Currently, it is therefore the Australian public and politicians who will have to judge whether they wish to be held responsible for violations of human rights in Sarawak or whether they are satisfied that Hydro-Tasmania’s is entitled to take part in Taib’s assault on his people.

The fact that under international laws any involvement in the violation of Human Rights is judged unacceptable, whether minimal or not, may help form that decision.

The International Hydro-power Association

Meanwhile, Hydro-Tasmania is also answerable to its fellow Board Members on the International Hydro-power Association, which it has often cited to justify its actions.  The IHA is an attempt by the dam building industry to improve its corporate and social responsibility record and to work within the UN’s regulations.

CEO, Roy Adair claims Sarawak Energy was a member of the IHA and this encouraged the partnership with Hydro-Tasmania.  In fact, we have researched the situation and it is plain that to the contrary Hydro-Tasmania encouraged and assisted Sarawak Energy to become part of the Association AFTER they had set up their business links.

Chairman David Crean has even recently visited Sarawak to advise SEB on its hosting of the next IHA conference in 2013.

Could it be that it was Hydro-Tasmania who recommended that SEB join the Board of the IHA just a few months after joining the Association, despite their low grade £3,000 a year membership level and then host the entire Association’s Annual Conference just a year or so later?

Could it be that as existing Board Members, Hydro-Tasmania were behind the promotion of Sarawak Energy’s image-enhancing role at the IHA, acting once again to give Taib’s government and its outrageous dam plans vital help in its plans to fulfill their self-enriching ambitions over SCORE?

Stop ignoring our rights! The Penan of Murum say they want justice and fair compensation. But they would prefer if their jungle could be saved

Hydro Tasmania in its statements this week justified its involvement in Sarawak by saying that they were only doing it out of the kindness of their hearts to ‘improve the plight of the people’:

“Hydro says Entura [their subsidiary] is playing a small part in a Sarawak government project aimed at improving the economic plight of the province’s people”.[Press]

They should be brought to a public forum alongside the Penan of Murum and the tens of thousand of other native people threatened by dams in Sarawak to explain exactly what these benefits have been.


  1. Our bottle gas price is also higher compared to West Malaysia…….where we as major supplier of gas….

    Comment by Orang Hutan — October 21, 2012 @ 7:37 PM | Reply

  2. WEST Malaysia SHOULD AND MUST BE AWARE OF THE GOING – ONs in EAST MALAYSIA afterall WE ARE CALL , 1Malaysia…to All West Malaysians, what say YOU ?!!

    Comment by teres6842550 — October 21, 2012 @ 4:04 PM | Reply

  3. Despite the commissioned of Batang Ai and Bakun HEPs there is no revision onto lowering of the electricity tariff. Sarawakians are further dammed into paying high electricity charges. Meaningless to Sarawak and its people then. Better to stop them now before the dam bursts.

    Comment by miaOwkia — October 21, 2012 @ 7:59 AM | Reply

    • Let us be very clear about Sarawak Energy Berhad, SESCO, and a few Independent Power Operators. Is SESCO wholly owned by Sarawak Government? Is Sarawak Energy Berhad wholly owned by Sarawak Government or only partially and the rest by the thief minister’s company and that of his cronies and proxies? What kind of filthy profits are the Independent Power Operators which are also owned by either Taib’s family, cronies or proxies reaping from Sarawak Government?

      Comment by Mata Kuching — October 21, 2012 @ 9:14 AM | Reply

    • Its been the issue well before Bakun……. we Sarakian sacrificed our land but 50% of the population still doesnt have 24 hrs electricity and for the people who has electricity, we have to pay high price.

      Sarawakian shuould only pay 20% of current electricity tariff baru lah adil.

      Comment by Orang Hutan — October 21, 2012 @ 7:35 PM | Reply

  4. sarawak dont need 12 hydro pants. its a disguise to enrich themselves. the Taib family interest is to harvest the forest. then award the construction contracts to themselves. then bring in dirty and enregy-hungry industries foo which the contracts are again monopolise by the same family and their cronies.
    thats the game plan. the indigenuous people interest and welfare? good luck to them and since majority of them have no citizenship and therefore voting power, there is nothing they can do.

    Comment by MMC — October 20, 2012 @ 3:27 PM | Reply

  5. Najib will not care about Murum Dam and the plight of the Penans because there is no money to make out of the case unlike Genneva Gold which has fleeced investors including many UMNO members and ministers of billions of ringgit. The directors of Genneva Gold will now have to share their illegal profit with Najib and UMNO before GE13.

    Can you imagine YB Daud investing more than RM20 million, Datuk Bustari Yuisuf more than RM20 million, Even YB Peter Nansian has invested more than RM2 million and many thousands UMNO members and ministers had lost their investments. What is Najib going to do with investors who had invested with bestino, Gold Label and now Genneva Gold. Is he going to hold these investors at ransom promising to get back their money in exchange of votes for BN in GE13?

    Comment by Effendi Nawawi — October 20, 2012 @ 2:35 PM | Reply

    • The PM, Najib Tun Razak has been reported to assure all Genneva Gold investors that he would helip them. Did Najib give the same assurance to investors of earlier gold scam companies like Bestino and Gold Label which had closed down few years ago?

      It will be interesting to read this link to discover the role of UMNO leaders and cronies in the Genneva Gold Scam. http://www.financetwitter.com/2012/10/genneva-gold-another-collapsing-ponzi-scam.html

      Comment by Mata Kuching — October 20, 2012 @ 3:06 PM | Reply

  6. [..]”…the Party knows it has to tolerate most official corruption precisely because so many people are implicated…”.[…] – http://goo.gl/1YpuZ

    It’s the only way to go. We need the world behind us. The PM is a crook. The Law Minister’s son is a gangster and the whole BN bunch is like the China fascists.

    Comment by Change — October 20, 2012 @ 10:37 AM | Reply

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