KUCHING: The announcement by Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg that the government is giving the go-ahead for the Trusan Dam to be built came as a surprise to many, including Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) chairman Datuk Amar Abdul Hamed Sapawi, said state PKR chairman Baru Bian.
Baru, who is Ba Kelalan assemblyman, said he did not expect that the government would still plan to build more dams, especially since its previous policy was not to pursue any more dam-building following the acquisition of Bakun Dam.
“The late chief minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem had said categorically that there is no need for more big dams, and his statement was widely reported.
“It appears that the words of the late Adenan carry little weight now, and the assurances made by his government count for nothing,” he said in a press statement yesterday.
Baru recalled that in the November 2014 State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting, when he asked about the status of the then-proposed Lawas and Trusan dams, then Minister of Public Utilities Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan replied that
‘both dams are still in the feasibility study stage. When the projects reach the next stage, a full Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) will be conducted.’
“To my surprise, I read yesterday (Monday) that SEB chairman Hamid Sepawi had said that the feasibility studies for the Trusan Dam were completed four years ago.”
Baru said he would be interested to know what the actual situation is with regard to how the decision was made to build the dam, and what sort of studies had been done in the past.
“When even the chairman of SEB expresses surprise, one wonders whether it was a decision made on impulse without consulting other stakeholders and experts.”
Baru said in the event that the project is to go ahead, the government must ensure that proper and thorough surveys are carried out, including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and SEIA statements after full consultation with the people affected.
“Where there are native customary rights (NCR) claims, the government must assure the people that they will be properly compensated. Compensation must not be based on the government’s narrow view of temuda, but on the adat of the people, which extends NCR to pemakai menoa and pulau galau.”
He stated that the state government should also guarantee that the whole of the Lawas and Ba Kelalan areas will be supplied with grid power supply and proper infrastructure, including good tar-sealed roads.
“Unfortunately, in the resettlement areas of the Bakun Dam, the displaced people have been complaining of unkept promises and many are unhappy with their new lives. The government needs to do better in looking after the interests of our rural communities.”