Tuesday 20 November 2012

'Damn the dams' or you're out, Sarawak natives tell PM

Some 30 indigenous people and members of various NGOs today marched in the rain to Parliament to demand Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak put a stop to plans by the Sarawak government to construct 12 mega dams in the state.

NONEShouting their slogan “Damn the dams” in five languages and unfurling banners that read “stop Murum dam” and “Stop Baram dam”, the group started the 500 metre march at 10.30am from the Bukit Aman police headquarters.

The march, aimed at submitting a memorandum to the prime minister, was organised by two NGOs - Damn the Dams action group and Save Sarawak's Rivers Network (Save Rivers).

“We are here to ask the prime minister to stop them (the construction of the dams). If he can't do it, then we would replace him with another person who can,” said one of the seven Sarawak indigenous representatives Boyce Anyie, 60, from Kg Long Liam.

NONEThe seven are also part of Himpunan Hijau's 'long march' which is currently underway in Pahang to protest the Lynas rare-earth plant.

They left Himpunan Hijau's march temporary to join in today's march to Parliament.

Other participants in today’s march comprise activists from the peninsula including Damn the Dams action group spokeperson Ng Yap Hwa, Sarawak-based Save Rivers chairperson Peter Kallang and Baram Protection Action Committee chairperson Philip Jau.

Kallang stressed that Najib and the federal government have the power to shelve the 12 mega dam projects, but the question is whether the prime minister is willing to listen to the people's voice.

However, the march ended in disappointment as Najib was currently in Phnom Penh and BN did not send any representative to receive the memorandum, which was later handed over to Penang Chief Minister and Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng, representing Pakatan Rakyat.

In a press statement issued to reporters in Parliament, the group said they suspected that many development contracts under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy, which consists of the 12 mega dams, have been given to family members of Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Hence they demanded that Najib stop Taib and his family from grabbing the lands belonged to indigenous people.

“No matter who controls the power, they must stop these dams. If Najib cannot do it, then get another person to do it,” said Jau.

Lim pledged that once Pakatan takes over Putrajaya, it would reassess these projects based on environmental impact reports. However, he stressed that Pakatan must also take over the Sarawak state government to stop them.

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