Natives hand over petition against Baram dam to Sarawak's Chief Minister
Peter Kallang of SAVE Rivers and Philip Jau of the Baram Protection Action Committee present the petition and their demands
The SAVE Rivers Network and the Baram Protection Action Committee handed over a petition of thousands of signatures to the Chief Minister's office in Kuching against to continuing preparations on the construction of Baram dam. The protests in front of the Chief Minister's office on September 18th were preceded by a forum where communities from all over Sarawak met to strategize against Sarawak's dam endeavour.
Read here the press release of SAVE Rivers:
Baram residents delivered petition protesting the Baram mega-dam to the Chief Minister of Sarawak
Kuching, Sept 18th 2012: About 50 indigenous people from the Baram area delivered a petition of thousands of signatures to the Chief Minister of Sarawak today at Wisma Bapa Malaysia (State Secretariat building). The people were representing at least 18 longhouses from Upper and Middle Baram.
The petitions are in protest of the plans to build a mega-dam which would flood half the size of Singapore. Thousands of Baram residents would be forced to move away from their ancestral lands, homes and farms, to accommodate the mega-dam.
Affected resident, and President of JOAS (Jaringan Orang Asal seMalaysia or Indigenous Peoplesâ Network of Malaysia), Thomas Jalong of Long Anap, Baram views with grave concern of the planned construction of mega-dam because of its potential adverse implications, particularly on the rights, livelihoods and future of the indigenous people of the area.
âThe dam would inevitably submerge our ancestral homelands of more than 20,000 people and in the process would forcibly displace us from our homes. We would also be unjustly deprived of our lands, sources of livelihood and sustenance, facing an uncertain future,â Thomas Jalong said.
âTo us indigenous peoples, our ancestral land is a link to our past, present and future generations. Land is not only regarded as an economic resource but is fundamental to our social, cultural, spiritual and political identity and survival,â Thomas added.
Peter Kallang, Chairperson of Save Sarawakâs Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers), a coalition formed by indigenous peoples and NGOs to stop the 12 planned mega-dams in Sarawak says, âThis clearly shows that the majority of the Baram people do not want the dam.â
âIf you look at the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that Malaysia has agreed to adopt, the plan for constructing the dams have to stop immediately and all works on the access roads to the dams including the soil studies has to be stopped,â Peter adds.
Philip Jau, of Baram Protection Action Committee says, âthe government has not been transparent at all with actual plans of the Baram mega-dam. They have not asked the people what they think about the plans of the dam, but instead have commenced plans to start surveys for the access roads. We do want development and roads but we do not want an access road built specifically for the mega-dam. This is not what we want.â
âWhen we met with the Superintendent of the Lands and Survey Miri, he did not mention the building of the access road or the reason why the road is being built. This is an example of how they continue not to be transparent of their plans,â Philip Jau stressed.
Philip Jau hopes that the government would listen to the voices of the Baram residents and stop all building related to the Baram mega-dam, hence the handover of the petition today.
Prior to the handing of the petition, at least 150 people attended a forum organized by Save Sarawakâs Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers) on native customary lands, and mega-dams in Sarawak on Monday (Sept 17th) at Telang Usan Hotel. Speakers spoke on the rights of indigenous peoples, especially in relation to land, and the socio-economic impacts of the mega-dams.
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