Hornbill Unleashed

December 4, 2013

Penan blockade lifted after additional RM8,000 paid to protesters, says lawyer

A young Penan mother and her baby leaving their old longhouse at Long Tangau to their new resettlement village at Metalun last Sunday. - The Malaysian Insider pic, December 3, 2013.DESMOND DAVIDSON

A young Penan mother and her baby leaving their old longhouse at Long Tangau to their new resettlement village at Metalun last Sunday. – The Malaysian Insider pic, December 3, 2013.The 77-day Penan blockade of the Murum hydroelectric dam has been lifted, following an extra RM8,000 offered to each family.

The end of the blockade was announced yesterday by one of the state’s Native Customary Rights (NCR) land lawyers, Abun Sui Anyit.

Anyit, who is also offering legal assistance to the protesting Penans, said they had been “strong-armed by the state government into accepting a token compensation package”.

The natives from the villages of Long Tangau and Long Menapa were given the RM8,000 on top of the RM15,000 relocation cash assistance from the state government.

They had, since Sunday, joined the other villagers at the resettlement village in Metalun.

The group had set up the blockade on the access road to the dam site since work on the dam began last September to press their demand for a RM500,000 cash compensation for each family.

That demand was described as “exorbitant and unreasonable” by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud who had said that the state government would not give the Penans a sen more.

Anyit, who lives in Miri, said based on his telephone conversation with one of the protesters, Gereng Jadung of Long Tangau, he learnt that the villagers had no choice as they were told their longhouse would be flooded soon and the logging road, especially the bridges, would soon be dismantled.

That, Anyit added, would make it difficult for them to get around and difficult for them to proceed with the blockade.

Anyit also claimed that the longhouse chief had influenced the protesters into changing their minds and moving to Metalun.

“Most of the Penans were influenced by an additional RM8,000 offered by SEB (Sarawak Energy Berhad), putting the cash payout for the relocation exercise at RM23,000.”

He, however, remained defiant and said the Penans will still protest and are determined to continue with a court case against the government and SEB.

The families were among the 73 SEB helped to move to Metalun last Sunday.

SEB, in a statement earlier, said the move to Metalun was delayed for a fews hours due to the “action taken by some who are relentlessly trying to derail the resettlement”.

SEB said while the 31 families from the village of Long Tangau started moving in the morning for the five-hour road trip to Metalun, the 42 families from the village of Long Menapa reportedly started “late in the afternoon” as some villagers “were hesitant to move due to some concerns pertaining to the compensation package”.

SEB’s senior corporate communications manager, Haniza Abdul Hamid, said they had also received reports that some of the villagers have been coerced by opponents of the development to remain at their longhouses “through an aggressive campaign of fear”.

She said a hastily called dialogue between the community elders and the longhouse chief, Lien Buek, finally broke the impasse and the villagers followed Buek’s lead in collecting the keys to their respective houses.

“The decision was crucial for the community to stay united and we look forward for more benefits planned by the government for our community, especially in education and agriculture development”, Buek reportedly said of the agreement.

The relocation of the Penans, displaced by the RM4 billion hydroelectric dam, started last September.

Some 161 families, from villages that would be the first to go under water, have since been moved to the other resettlement village at Tegulang.

The Metalun resettlement village would now be home to the Penans who once lived in Long Luar, Long Singu, Long Tangau and Long Menapa.

Those from Long Luar, the last village, are expected to be moved out in the next few days.

Apart from the cash relocation of RM15,000, the state government is also offering the 353 Penan families displaced by the project:
* roads, a primary school, clinics, and places of worship;
* monthly income support equivalent to RM850 (RM600 in kind) per household for up to three years;
* monthly income support of RM500 or equivalent in the fourth year;
* support based on needs basis for the fifth year; and
* land allocation of 15 hectares for cash-crop plantation and home garden with training programme.

The government had said the total cost of providing the displaced Penans with the facilities and schemes was about RM1.2 million per household.

Setting up a blockade is the favourite tactic of indigenous natives to thwart the state’s plan to build a series of hydroelectric dams to power the state’s industrialisation drive.

Now that the Murum dam is nearing completion, the state has already announced it would build one dam in Baram and the other in Pelagus. Both are capable of generating between 1,000Mw and 1,200Mw of electricity.

Opponents of the dam have claimed the state planned to build up to four dams in Baram alone.

Ethnic tribes in Baram, like the Kayan, Kenyah and a few Penans, have to date organised three blockades to disrupt preliminary work at the site.

They have so far managed to stop work on an access road to the dam site and the collection of core soil samples.

The Baram dam would submerge 33 villages, 400 sq km of forest and farmland and around 20,000 people would need to be resettled.

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2 Comments »

  1. What a shame. Wonder if that little child will ever get to see any of that RM8,000.00 when he is old and his time to protest eventually comes!

    Comment by brian — December 9, 2013 @ 4:01 PM | Reply

  2. The natives of Sarawak who were displaced by the thief minister’s dubious dams projects must continue to sue the BN government. Learn your lessons well for supporting a corrupted regime in past elections. DO NOT cast a single vote for BN in future election.

    Comment by Richard Lee — December 4, 2013 @ 9:08 AM | Reply


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