KUCHING: Second Minister of Resource Management and Environment Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan believed the Penans in Murum, who recently erected blockades to the proposed Murum dam, had been led astray by certain quarters with ulterior motives.
Otherwise, he believed they (Penans) won’t resort to using blockades only now (the dam is 70 per cent completed).
“Sometimes, the people are being made use of by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), be it local or foreign. The Murum Dam project was announced years ago and why only (blockade) now? It is very clear that they are being instigated by the NGOs,” he asked.
Speaking to journalists after attending a function at Wisma Sumber Alam here yesterday, Awang Tengah opined that there was no reason for the Penans to disrupt the project since the state government had ironed things out with those affected.
“They claimed they were not consulted on the resettlement site, which is not true. We have engaged them, had dialogues with them.
“We chose the site based on their requests and decisions. Which means that is their choice.”
Awang Tengah, who is also Minister of Public Utilities and Minister of Industrial Development, revealed that the authorities had held many dialogues with the Penans concerned before approving the resettlement plan.
“To say that they are not consulted is not right.”
He advised the Penans to open their eyes wide as the parties purportedly trying to champion their cause might have a personal agenda.
“They are not fighting for the benefits of the Penans, but for themselves. Otherwise, why now when the Murum Dam project is already at its advanced stage?”
Awang Tengah described it as “very unreasonable” for the Penans to demand for equity in the Murum Dam project.
“Wow, they demand that they should have equity in the project. What is that?”
On speculations that a private company or two had alienated land surrounding the resettlement area, he replied that it might be true.
“It is just a maybe. I am not too sure as I have to check.”
In a press statement issued later, the ministry reiterated that right from day one discussions with Penan leaders were held to determine the resettlement area.
It added that by scrutinising the group of protesters, it was found that some of them were never from Murum area, especially those who claimed to be spokesmen for the Penans.
“The minister (Awang Tengah) said we should strongly refute the allegations so that the project, which is meant for the benefit of the people, can be implemented successfully. The project is for the happiness of many people, especially those who stay in the area,” the statement added.
The proposed Murum Dam, which is now 70 per cent completed, would have a power generating capacity of 944 MW when completed by the end of next year. Work on the project, which is located 70km upriver from Bakun HEP, started on Oct 1, 2008.