Australian company under pressure for human rights violations
(CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA / SARAWAK, MALAYSIA) Two hundred to three hundred natives have been blocking the construction works at the Murum mega-dam in the Malaysian rainforest for three weeks. They decided to block the access road and the supply of materials for the 944 megawatt dam when they heard about the conditions of their resettlement. Murum dam, located in Sarawak on the Malaysian part of Borneo Island, will displace around 1,500 people from the ethnic groups of the Western Penan and the Kenyah.
The affected communities at the Murum dam are complaining about the violation of their rights: they have never received any official information concerning their resettlement, although the dam will start to be impounded by early 2013. Recently leaked information suggests that the compensation will impoverish them, and their new farmland is already occupied by palm oil plantations. This will prevent them from continuing to pursue their traditional livelihoods.
One of the main international collaborators in the construction of the Murum dam is an Australian company: Hydro Tasmania. Hydro Tasmania, an electricity generating company owned by the government of Tasmania, has been advising Sarawak on the construction of a series of 12 dams â of which the Murum dam is only the first one. Sarawak Energy, the local company constructing the dams, has been profiting from a knowledge transfer from Hydro Tasmania as well as from studies and staff secondments.
An international coalition of NGOs from Australia, Europe, USA and Japan is now approaching the Australian foreign minister and the Tasmanian Premier. They are demanding an investigation into the role of Hydro Tasmania and the suspension of Hydro Tasmaniaâs operations in Sarawak. Hydro Tasmaniaâs close ties with Sarawak Energy suggest that Hydro Tasmania may be involved in decisions that are leading directly to human rights violations of Sarawakâs indigenous peoples.
Sarawak Energy acknowledges in its 2010 Annual Report that Hydro Tasmaniaâs skills are âessentialâ for the construction of the planned 12 dams. The collaboration between the two companies ought to be formalized through a formal partnership agreement. For such close collaboration, Hydro Tasmania ought to have followed proper due diligence procedures before entering into a business relationship. In advising Sarawak Energy and providing staff, they are complicit in human rights violations committed by their business partner.
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