Secret Malaysian resettlement plan for dam-affected natives exposed
(MURUM, SARAWAK, MALAYSIA) A report by the Malaysian state government of Sarawak about the resettlement of over 1,500 natives has been leaked just a few months before the planned resettlement due to a mega-dam. The impoundment of the 944 MW Murum dam is meant to start in early 2013 and will flood almost 250km2 of forest and cause the displacement of six Penan and one Kenyah native communities.
Violation of basic rights
It verges on hypocrisy that the leaked Murum Resettlement Action Plan claims that “the main documents” concerning the construction of the dam and the resettlement are “to be made available to the public”, although this has obviously not been done so far. The affected communities have only received information about the conditions of their resettlement through the report leaked to ¬the whistle-blower website Sarawak Report. The withholding of the Resettlement Report goes against all international standards on transparency.
The report reveals that the compensation offered to the affected communities is anything but fair and will impoverish them: the monthly allowance to be paid after resettlement falls below the poverty level and ends after four years. Their new farmland is already covered with oil palms owned by large companies, and there is hardly any forest left to sustain the people’s traditional livelihood based on products from the wild. In addition, the affected Penan and Kenyah state that they have never been asked for their free, prior and informed consent as demanded by international standards, such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
After receiving the Resettlement Plan, the seven affected communities immediately put up a blockade on the access road to the dam on Wednesday last week. Over 200 people have since been effectively blocking the supply of materials to the dam construction works. They are willing to keep up the blockade until the Norwegian CEO of Sarawak Energy, the agency in charge of the implementation of Murum dam, and the government authorities agree to their demands concerning involuntary resettlement and compensation.
Norwegian Torstein Dale Sjøtveit, CEO of Sarawak Energy, has been asked to meet the affected communities at the blockade site to discuss their concerns, as he is one of the main persons responsible for the current twelve-dam complex in Sarawak – of which the Murum dam is only the first one to be built. Another foreign key supporter is Hydro Tasmania, which seconded staff to Sarawak Energy and completed various feasibility studies. Andrew Pattle, who was Project Manager for the Murum dam up until 2011 and is now Senior Project Manager for two other proposed dams, and Nick Wright, Vice President at Sarawak Energy, are just two of the Australian staff members seconded to the project. Without this knowledge transfer from Hydro Tasmania to Sarawak Energy, the realization of the planned dams would not be possible.
Tutoring on rights for government officials
The local SAVE Rivers Network, a group that is spearheading the struggle against the plans to build at least 12 dams in Sarawak’s interior, has today offered tutoring lessons on indigenous rights to high-level government leaders. The obvious lack of compliance with international standards and national laws by the Sarawak government is prompting them to teach the government about indigenous rights as guaranteed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and national law.
Peter Kallang, chairman of SAVE Rivers, said today: “It is unfortunate that many high-level government leaders do not understand the international UN declaration that Malaysia has signed. We would therefore like an opportunity to explain to them the rights of indigenous peoples under the laws of this country.”
The Bruno Manser Fund wholeheartedly supports this highly necessary tutoring on indigenous rights for the government and, in addition, is demanding the immediate release of all studies conducted on any of the currently-planned dams. All the international actors involved in Sarawak’s dam endeavour, including Torstein Dale Sjøtveit and Hydro Tasmania, should stop supporting the ongoing violation of international standards and cease their collaboration with Sarawak Energy.
(2 October 2012)