Saturday 6 October 2012

Penans tighten Murum dam blockade noose

  • Dukau Papau
  • 2:48PM Oct 6, 2012
The Penans tightened their blockade of the Murum dam construction by cutting off another linkage road to the dam site starting on Thursday, thus paralysing the transportation of building materials worth hundreds of thousands of ringgit.

The new blockade was set up on an old narrow logging road through an oil palm plantation, passable only for four-wheel drive vehicles.

NONE"Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) had been using the road as an alternative route to the dam site for the past three days," said Raymond Abin (left), National Coordinator of Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (SCANE).

He said that since the Penans started the blockade last week, SEB and other companies stopped using the main access road to Murum dam project site.

"The major works on the construction of the dam have been paralyzed over the last week, while the drivers have left for home abandoning their cement tankers, lorry trucks and trailers loaded with building materials by the road side near the blockade site, " he added.

He also said that access to the Murum hydroelectric dam project construction site is totally blocked on all sides with the setting-up of second blockade by the Penans, adding that the number involved in the move has risen from 200 to 320 people.

"They come from eight Penan villages and a Kenyah-Badeng village of Long Umpa near Long Malim in Danum River.

Padi planted, new action begins

"In the next few days more Penans are expected to join in the blockade as most of them have completed planting their hill paddy," Raymond said.

He added that the Penans are setting up make-shift camps around the blockade site at Seping River Bridge, about 40km from the site.

"They are making makeshift huts, 'sulap', covered with wild-ginger and palm leaves as well as plastic canvasses.

NONE"Those families who came with their babies, young children and elderly parents are occupying an old logging camp workshop nearby the site.

"Some of them made their huts using old zinc sheets that they managed to salvage from the old logging camp site," he said.

The village Head of Long Luar, Madai Salo said that all his family members are involved in the action.

He came with his wife, sons and daughters together with his granddaughter of two months.

 Disrespect's collateral damage 

Labang Paneh, a representative from Long Wat village said that the blockade is collective action of all the Penan villages affected by the project.

"We will not remove the blockade or move out of here until our demands are resolved and fulfilled by the government", he said.

The Village Head of Long Wat, Pinang Bo accused the SEB of showing disrespect for the customs of the Penan community in Murum area.

He charged the firm with intentionally destroying the most important of the Penan's scared and historic sites of Batu Tungun, Batu Pebin and Batu Aseu at the project site with more facing the same fate by the construction of the dam.

NONEThe China's Three Gorges Project Corporation and its Chinese contractor companies have advised their nationals not to leave their camps and the Murum dam construction site, fearing for their safety.

Meanwhile, the government has deployed some 20 police personnel from the General Operations Force to the blockade site with some stationed at the dam construction site to maintain security there.

The blockade which started 10 days ago was mounted by the Penans from the villages of Long Wat, Long Luar, Long Tangau, Long Menapa, Long Singu and Long Malim, Long Peran and Long Jaik villages together with a Kenyah-Badeng village of Long Umpa.
RM3bil project, cultural cost unestimated
Raymond said: "The Penan communities are protesting against the negligence and the failure of the government to act and respond to their issues, problems and demands in regard to the construction of Murum dam project.

"They are also protesting against SEB for being disrespectful of their customs by destroying their scared and historic sites without their consent," he said.
NONEAccording to him, SEB which is a Sarawak Government owned Private Corporation had awarded the Murum dam project contract to China's Three Gorges Project Corporation at an estimated cost of RM3 billion.

The dam is about 70% completed and when over , it will flood about 24,500 hectares of native customary rights land and forest.

The dam catchment area is 275,000 hectares comprising mainly Pelieran, Danum and Usun Apau Plateau, the ancestral lands of Sarawak's indigenous communities.

The Murum dam project is scheduled completion by 2013.

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