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Unresolved after 14 years

by Peter Sibon, reporters@theborneopost.com. Posted on June 17, 2012, Sunday

COMING BACK: Eling looking out at the doorway of Luhat’s jelatong. Luhat has cleared the land on the hill behind his jelatong for farming.

Sg Asap residents frustrated over broken promises moving back to Bakun to live on jelatong

SUNNGEI ASAP: After almost 14 years, the people of Sg Asap Resettlement Scheme are still clamouring for the fulfillment of promises made to them in return for relocating from their ancestral homes to make way for the Bakun dam.

According to Luhat Tugau, an entrepreneur from Uma Belor, his people had been shortchanged in land allocation, cash compensation, housing materials and awarding of scholarship under the Bakun Trust Fund.

He said if these broken promises were not rectified, Sg Asap Resettlement Scheme could not be considered a model resettlement scheme for other dam projects in future.

Uma said the biggest issue yet to be resolved in the resettlement of his people to Sg Asap was land compensation for each family.

He disclosed that in 1992 before the dam was constructed they were promised 15 hectares per family but before they moved from their homes in 1998, the promised acreage had shrunk to seven hectares.

ENTERTAINING GUESTS: Luhat serving barbequed fish to his guests. On his left is his wife Dora.

BOUNTY OF THE WILD: Luhat casting his net in a stream located not far from his jelatong.

“By the time we moved out to our new homes, the actual acreage allocated to us was only three acres per family,” Luhat told the Borneo Post at Uma Belor here recently.

His anger and frustration was shared by fellow villager, Eling Igang, who until now refused to accept the land title which has been released to him.

Eling argued that he would rather not take the three acres of land given to him because it would mean he accepted to be cheated.

“Instead, I want to build my jelatong (floating house) in the lake and claim back whatever land we have lost,” he said.

Currently there about 200 people like Luhat and Eling, who had gone back to Bakun to build jelatong on the lake as a way to claim back their land under the water.

“We can build our jelatong and at the same time we can still fish, hunt and farm the land next to our jelatong,” they said.

Luhat is the first jelatong owner to turn his floating house into a homestay.

On cash compensation, Luhat said the amount promised to them was still not paid in full.

“In my case, the relevant authorities still owe me at least RM50,000 from the amount they have promised me,” he said.

He believed that many others also faced the same problem but could not voice their views.

Another sore in the resettlement exercise was the inferior building materials used to build their longhouses and the designs of the houses.

“We started to repair our homes after staying here for seven year. On the eighth year, we have to spend our compensation money not only to buy better materials but also to expand and re-partition our houses as they were too small.”

Touching on the scholarship fund, Luhat alleged that his eldest son was deprived of a scholarship due to him from the Bakun Trust Fund to pursue his studies in a technical college in the Peninsular Malaysia.

“His result was good enough to earn him a scholarship. But his application was turned down even after my wife and I appealed to the Bakun Trust Fund management,” he added.

And what saddened Luhat the most was that only about one quarter of the some 10,000 relocated to Sg Asap actually stayed back at their villages as the rest had left the area in search of job opportunities.

“And out of the some 2,500 left behind, I reckoned that about half of them have moved out to the jelatong as they cannot farm, fish and hunt at Sg Asap,” he added.

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