Anwar says he will shelve Sarawak dam plans

As Malaysia is heading towards a general election, the Malaysian opposition leader and potential future Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, has recently made a public statement of highest importance to Sarawak's indigenous peoples.

During a gathering at Marudi, a town on the banks of the Baram river, Anwar said last Sunday that, as Prime Minister, he will shelve the controversial plans for several mega-dams on the Baram river. The Baram river is the lifeline for over 20'000 indigenous people in Northern Sarawak and home to a number of indigenous rainforest cultures such as the Kayan, Kenyah, Penan and Iban.

Anwar's clear statement is an important lobbying success for Sarawak's SAVE Rivers network that has been campaigning against the Sarawak government's dam plans for over one year. While the Baram dam and eleven other dams are being planned by Sarawak Energy, a power supplier owned by the Sarawak state government, it is highly unlikely that Sarawak will be able to proceed with the dam constructions without the financial and political support from the federal government.

Anwar's chances of becoming Prime Minister are higher than ever before. Prime Minister Najib Razak's Barisan Nasional coalition is suffering from a number of high-profile corruption scandals that implicate various ministers, including the Prime Minister himself. Barisan Nasional has been in power uninterruptedly since the formation of Malaysia in 1963. In the 2008 election, the coalition lost its two-thirds majority to the oppositional Pakatan Rakyat coalition headed by Anwar Ibrahim. Pakatan Rakyat has since governed a number of Malaysian states, including Penan and Selangor on the Malaysian peninsula.

Polls in Malaysia are due to be held before April 2013 when the current government's five-year term will end.

Source: The Borneo Post, 7 January 2013


Large dams can only serve as last resort, acknowledged the Malaysian Ministry of the Environment.




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