Villagers on why they reject RM90 mln project water pump booster

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THEIR SIDE OF THE STORY: Papai (seated second left) talking to reporters with Dr Kiyui on his right.

KUCHING: A spokesman for the villagers of Kpg Temung and Tepoi in Tebedu said they rejected the proposed RM90 million water pump booster because of the ongoing legal dispute concerning the status of their land.

Papai Apin, who is a also a lay leader for Temung Mura, said the project should not proceed as the land case was still pending resolution in the court.

“We, the villagers of Temung and Tepoi, consider the dispute unresolved and because of that, we will not permit any kind of land-based activity to take place in our villages without our consent and agreement, until our grievances are resolved to our full satisfaction,” he told reporters here yesterday.

According to him, the affected villagers are still embroiled in a dispute with a timber company over land they claimed native customary rights (NCR) over.

He said the villagers were worried they would lose their NCR rights over the land if they allow the project to proceed.

“We do not want to be squatters in our own land,” he said.

Papai was joined by six others – three from Tepoi and three more from Temung Bangan, Temung Mawang and Temung Putah – during the meeting with
reporters.

They wanted to respond to what was said by Infrastructure Development and Communication Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin in Tebedu last Tuesday.

Among others, Manyin had said certain people in the constituency were resisting government projects being implemented. He cited the folks of Temung and Tepoi for their refusal to let the Land and Survey Department carry out survey work on a site for a proposed water pump booster to serve the whole area.

The RM90 million allocation had been approved for treated water supply to various villages, but could not be implemented because of resistance from the people themselves, Manyin said.

According to Papai, the village folks were unhappy with what Manyin said as it painted them as a group of people who mindlessly resist development.

He claimed they were seriously considering taking legal action against Manyin if he did not apologise to them, as their names and reputations were tarnished.

“We find it most unbecoming of Dato Sri Michael Manyin, who is not just a state minister but an acknowledged leader of stature among the Bidayuhs, to run down the very community he was given the responsibility to protect and nurture,” he said.

Meanwhile, PKR Sarawak health bureau director Dr Christopher Kiyui said there was no need for the project as the people were already enjoying clean water from the gravity feed system.

“When the logging activity took place previously, the water was turbid. But after the activity stopped, the water from the catchment area is clean again,” he said.

Dr Kiyui, who lost to Manyin when contesting in Tebedu seat in the last April’s state election, said NCR lawyers Baru Bian and See Chee How were acting as counsels for the villages in the ongoing legal dispute against the timber company given the rights to log there.

Baru and See are also PKR Sarawak chairman and vice-chairman respectively.

The case grabbed headlines last May after several villagers torched logging equipment including six excavators, two bulldozers and two lorries to protest the logging activity.