‘Market rates don’t reflect Baleh land’s value’

Jeffery (seated) with (from left) PTGNA publicity chief Maringai Jingga, treasurer Wilfred Nyawai and vice-chairman Galau Barandie.

Jeffery (seated) with (from left) PTGNA publicity chief Maringai Jingga, treasurer Wilfred Nyawai and vice-chairman Galau Barandie.

KAPIT: The Nanga Antawau Landowners Committee (PTGNA) claims that the market rate for their Native Customary Rights (NCR) land, which is required for the construction of the Baleh Dam project, does not reflect the land’s true value.

In a statement yesterday, the landowners called on the government to reconsider the amount of compensation.

“It should be revised and a new method of computation should be formulated. NCR land inherited from our forefathers, after acquisition, will be lost forever. Is it wrong for the landowners to ask for a more reasonable and revised amount of compensation?

“What compensation rate is ‘realistic’ and ‘reasonable’ is quite subjective.

“Factors in determining the compensation rate should not be traditionally limited to the land itself but also to include other factors such as livelihood and future of the landowners, social and communal factors included. Comparing the value with titled land in Kapit, which is primarily influenced by commercial factors, would cause serious injustice to the people in Baleh,” claimed the landowners.

This statement was in response to Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing’s remarks, saying that PTGNA should be realistic about the value of the NCR land, as even titled land in Kapit did not cost RM70,000 per acre.

PTGNA claimed that it was not against the Baleh Dam project – it actually embraced ‘the idea’ as it would bring development economically and socially to the people of Baleh.

“It is not undemocratic or wrong for landowners to uphold their constitutional rights over property.

“Akin to the situation where another person encroaches into the backyard of your home, are you not entitled to have a say in it and uphold your rights?

“This ‘small group of people’ – however small – are the actual landowners who are directly affected by the project,” said PTGNA.

“We propose SEB (Sarawak Energy Bhd) to engage a local from PTGNA as community relations officer (CRO) based in Kuching, Kapit and Nanga Antawau to help the existing two CROs, who are not from Nanga Antawau.”

The landowners said it was necessary to be more sensitive to local needs, so that they would be kept informed.

“The areas affected and the Baleh Dam project itself should be properly explained and clarified to the residents of Nanta Antawau.

“This lack of communication and information on the details of the project to the residents of Baleh is primarily attributable to or caused by the absence of proper local representation from the residents of Nanga Antawau, specifically the appointment of the CROs.

“The current lack of communication and information may result to misconceptions and misunderstandings. This is something that should be avoided if Nanga Antawau were to be developed and the project to be proceeding smoothly,” said the committee.

PTGNA also proposed for government to hold a dialogue with those directly affected by the project.

According to PTGNA chairman Jeffery Kumbong, who is from Nanga Antawau, the majority of Baleh folk supported the dam project because they live downriver and do not have land in the affected areas.

“Yes, we are the minority but please understand that we are also the legitimate landowners. We are not against development. We just want our interests to be looked into because the land is dear to our hearts,” he said.