Malaysia: Sarawak Dam Protest Intensifies with Blockades, Confrontations

Baram_blockade_23.10.201326th October Anti-dam protestors, who on Wednesday put up blockades at two roads leading to Sarawak’s next hydroelectric dam near Long Lama in Baram, have warned state electricity provider Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) to remove its construction machinery from nearby Long Naah within three days.

The protestors claimed that the proposed site for the dam was on their native customary rights (NCR) land.

The machinery had been transported to the area to prepare the construction of a 1200 megawatt (MW) dam that would displace up to 20,000 indigenous Kenyah, Kayan and Penans. The dam will also flood a rainforest area of 400sq km.

Environmental group Save Rivers Network and protestors confronted a group of 30 workers who were conducting rock testing activities at Long Naah.

The group said the workers were told to pack up and leave the native land immediately.

“The workers tried to negotiate but were told in no uncertain terms that there was no need for further negotiations as the communities rejected the dam project.”

Save also said that a group of villagers had set up camp at the proposed dam site to monitor the withdrawal of the workers.

The latest blockades added pressure on the government ahead of a key UN meeting in Geneva on Malaysia’s human rights record where UN member states urged Putrajaya to respect the rights of the natives.

The UPR process provides the opportunity for all UN member states to state what action they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. Yesterday’s session represented the second review of Malaysia, the first being in 2009.

Sarawak deputy state secretary Datuk Ose Murang was in the Malaysian delegation to Geneva, Switzerland.

Meanwhile, SEB chief executive officer Datuk Torstein Dale Sjotveit, has said he would now like to hear from the “very vocal NGOs and action groups currently in Geneva, and the organisation that nominated Sarawak Energy for the Public Eye award”.

The NGO that nominated SEB for the Public Eye award is the Swiss environmental group, the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF).

The award honours the most despicable and shameful company of the year – companies with a track record of human rights violations, environmental destruction and exploitation of their workers or involvement in corruption.

BMF said they nominated SEB due to its gross disregard for the environment, the indigenous people and massive corruption linked to the project.

The winner would be picked during the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland in January.

“We would love to hear from the NGOs on how they propose the state deploy transformational projects that can elevate all Sarawakians and lift per capita income across the board if not through hydroelectric projects,” Sjotveit said. – October 25, 2013.