KUCHING: The state government is urged to cease the Baram Dam project and to stop encroaching into Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands.
Twenty-four civil society groups, through a joint statement received here yesterday, said although Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem had verbally instructed the suspension of the project, the people of Baram would continue their resistance movement until a final written assurance was presented by the state government.
“We would like to reiterate that the local villagers have never been consulted prior to the commencement of the dam project. It indicates a violation by the state government of the development principles of ‘Free, Prior, Inform and Consent’ stated in the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“This mega dam project will force 20,000 indigenous people to relocate and annihilate heritages and cultures. An area as large as Singapore will be flooded, posing a long-term environmental destruction. Not only should the state government halts the Baram dam project, all 12 mega dam projects proposed under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) should also be canceled,” the group said.
The Baram people have been stationing at two camps, namely Long Lama and KM15 in the past two years to prevent staff and contractors of Sarawk Energy Berhad (SEB) from going into the project sites.
At KM15 last year, 14 confrontations with SEB occurred in three months, during which SEB personnel were expelled and machines moved away. A huge hole was also dug at the main road leading to the construction site.
“The state government must recognise the perceived meaning of ‘development’ by indigenous villagers. They would never accept any forms of exploitation of natural resources, let alone their ancestral land and rivers. They demand a sustainable development – provision of basic infrastructure and democratic life without sacrificing environmental ecology and culture.
“Therefore, mega dam projects in rural Baram should be replaced by construction of amenities (roads, schools and hospitals), as well as supplying electricity and clean water,” said the group.
The 24 civil society groups are Baramkini, Damn the Dams Action Group, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, Pusat KOMAS, Center for Orang Asli Concern, Institut Rakyat, Rainbow Genders Society, Institute for Development of Alternative Lifestyle (IDEAL), Civil Rights Committee of KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Malaysian Youth and Students’ Democratic Movement (DEMA), Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS), Tindak Malaysia, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Sahabat Rakyat, Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET), Save Rivers, In Between Culture, Community Information and Communications Centre (CICOM), Bukit Bandarraya Residents Association, Focus On Sarawak, Aliran, Johor Yellow Flame (JYF), Sunflower Electoral Education (SEED) and Ban Cyanide Mining in Raub.