Hornbill Unleashed

March 15, 2013

Penans face double threats

Joseph Tawie

The state and federal governments must pay swift attention to NCR land issues and welfare of the Penan community.

More than 2,000 Penans from seven Penan villages in Sungai Patah and three in Long Akah in Baram are facing simultaneous double threats – indiscriminate logging and the proposed construction of the Baram Dam.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president SM Mohamed Idris said that SAM has been informed by Penan villagers in Sungai Patah, Baram, that loggers have encroached into their native customary rights (NCR) land.

“The first threat comes a logging company attempting to encroach into their communal forest reserve which has been successfully protected since the people’s last blockade in the area in 2008-2009.

“The proposed construction of the Baram Dam, meanwhile, poses another looming threat to their lives,” said Mohamed Idris.

In Long Daloh, the angry villagers have resorted to erecting a blockade since March 2 to halt encroachment into their communal forest reserve.

“This action was taken after the people had written to complain to the Sarawak Forests Department, lodged a police report in Marudi and written to the Marudi district officer to inform the office of the setting up of an action committee in Long Daloh.

“According to the villagers, prior to this, the logging company had conducted some negotiations with certain individuals from their village.

“As a result, an agreement was signed in secrecy between the party ‘representing’ Long Daloh and the company, without the consent of other residents.

“The people also alleged that the company had attempted to convince the party concerned that the village stands to lose even more if an agreement was not signed, as the forest in the area will eventually be submerged by the Baram Dam,” Mohamed Idris said.

Neighbouring Long Lutin, however, is safe for now.

Although the logging company had allegedly attempted to negotiate with the village headman earlier in January, no such agreement has been signed by any village “representative”.

Govt must settle Penan issues

Village chief Tangan Anyi also wrote to the Sarawak Forests Department on Feb 6 to complain about the threat of encroachment. The villagers have since erected a notice board near their communal forest reserve to warn against encroachment by anyone.

Said Mohamed Idris: “The two villages are also living under pressure as a result of the proposed construction of the Baram Dam.

“Since January, the people have refused to cooperate with representatives from Sarawak Energy Bhd who had thrice attempted to visit them.

“The people claimed that the visits were to brief the people on the necessity to construct the dam and its benefits, as well as to collect information from each family.

“However, all these failed to be carried out as the villagers are totally opposed to the construction of the dam.

“Like other parties, SAM is also of the opinion that the proposal to construct such a costly dam, which will destroy priceless ecosystems and cultural heritage, has been made without the consent of the affected people.

“Conducting briefings at a time when a decision has been made is certainly not a consultative process to determine whether consent is given by the affected communities.

“Building the Baram Dam will neither benefit the affected communities, who will be involuntarily relocated from their ancestral territories, nor the state, which already has an excessive supply of energy with the completion of the Bakun and Murum Dams.

“SAM would like to urge the state and federal authorities to pay swift attention to the native customary land rights and welfare of the Penan communities in Sungai Patah,” he said.

Mohamad Idris said it was time the government listened to the people’s demand that the communal forest reserve be gazetted to protect it from encroachment.

“They have also long appealed for a medical centre to be built in Long Lutin to accommodate the seven Penan settlements in Sungai Patah.

“Also, the poverty of the Penan communities needs to be meaningfully resolved through ways that can actually benefit them. Agricultural assistance and maintenance of roads must be given priority by the authorities.

“For how long must the people continue to be dependent on logging companies to solve their road and transport woes?

“Is it not the responsibility of the government to provide such services to its people?” he asked.


1 Comment »

  1. VOTE out BN to save Sarawak and all natives affected by all proposed dams or part of SCORE which had been camouflaged by the paramount thief minister Taib Mahmud to steal more valuable timbers and to award more infrastructure projects to the thief minister’s group of companies.

    Comment by Mata Kuching — March 17, 2013 @ 6:35 PM | Reply

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