MIRI: The Indigenous People’s Network of Malaysia (Joas) has called Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing’s statement published on Friday ‘disrespectful and narrow-minded’ towards Baram folk.
Masing had indicated that the Long Lama-Ulu Baram road would not be constructed because the people had rejected the Baram Dam project.
Joas secretary-general Thomas Jalong said it is the moral and social responsibility of any government to provide basic infrastructure and amenities to all people, not just those living in urban areas.
“The people of Baram regard the statement as disrespectful. He is not respecting the rights of the people of Baram with a choice that they had already made whereby they preferred their land, resources, heritage, and existing environment over a project (Baram Dam) which might have caused a lot of destruction.
“He is also disrespecting their basic human rights because we all deserve basic infrastructure, basic amenities and services regardless of whether we are in rural areas or town,” Thomas told a press conference yesterday.
He said Masing’s statement that the mega dam is key to attracting and influencing investors and the government to build the road in Baram had stirred anger among Baram folk.
“The people of Baram have the right to object to any development which can bring destruction to their livelihood, survival, future, culture, and that was why the late Adenan (former Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem) took the decision to scrap the Baram mega dam project,” he said.
Thomas claimed many Baram folk have also expressed their disappointment to him regarding the statement.
“His (Masing’s) comment is contrary to what is expected of him as he should be fighting for the development of rural areas in his capacity as minister and also senior minister from the Dayak community,” he said.
He called on the Baleh assemblyman to reconsider his way of thinking and claimed Masing was holding Baram folk to ransom. Thomas also claimed millions of ringgit worth of timber were taken from Baram over the years and now hundreds of thousands of hectares of land have been open up for plantation development.
“Where is the money from these areas to provide funds for development projects in Baram?” he questioned.
“It is only fair for our people together with our elected people’s representatives to collectively demand for such infrastructure.”