Sarawak Energy’s desperate prayers for an unnecessary dam
People protesting against Torstein Dale Sjotveit's prayer session
(SARAWAK, MALAYSIA) Sarawak Energy CEO Torstein Dale Sjotveit and a number of Sarawak government representatives were faced with resistance by local communities when they tried to hold a controversial prayer ritual at the site of the planned 1,200 MW Baram dam in Borneoâs interior. The ceremony, which took place last Saturday, was interrupted by around 30 local protestors who reached the site by boat.
âHow can Sarawak Energy and the government hold our traditional Baram âMayau Dallehâ prayer ritual for blessing a dam which will destroy our Baram culture? This ceremony has traditionally been held in cases of natural disasters and calamities, but now Sarawak Energy and the government abuse our customs to justify their controversial project!â, explains Philip Jau, chairman of the Baram Protection Action Committee. Philip is a Kayan native from Long Laput, a longhouse close to the planned Baram dam. It is believed that 20,000 natives of Sarawak would have to be displaced due to the dam construction.
The day before the controversial prayer ritual, Sarawak Energy held a presentation on the Baram dam at the village of Long Naâah, but Siotveit, its Norwegian CEO, and the accompanying government representatives refused to engage in an open dialogue and participate in a question and answer session with local villagers.
âTheir conduct goes not only against our basic human rights but against simple courtesy. When coming to our villages, they have an obligation to answer the questions on this project that affects so many people in the region. They donât care about what people think, they just go aheadâ, states Peter Kallang of the SAVE Rivers Network.
The rationale behind the planned Baram dam has become extremely questionable after Rio Tinto recently announced it would withdraw from a Sarawak aluminium smelter project. It is believed that corruption is the main driver of the dam project as a number of involved companies are closely linked to business interests of the family of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.
Watch the clip about the protests against the prayer session: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDFkz9b27IA&feature=share
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