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Baram Dam: Villagers show displeasure towards community chiefs

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Villagers affected by the proposed Baram Dam are upset with their community chiefs for being “manipulated” into supporting the project. Mark Bujang has the story.

LONG LAMA, Baram – About 450 villagers made up of different ethnic groups from all over Baram gathered at the normally sleepy town of Long Lama on 29 October 2012 to demonstrate peacefully and show their displeasure towards some of their community leaders for supporting the proposed Baram hydroelectric dam project.

Banners and placards stating “Stop Baram Dam” and “Stop Mega Dams” were unfurled during the demonstration followed by cries from the villagers calling on the government and the relevant authorities to listen to their pleas.

The demonstration started at around 10.00am, outside the Long Lama Sub-District Office and then the villagers proceeded to march around town shouting slogans “Stop Baram Dam” in the different ethnic Orang Ulu dialects.

Police presence in Long Lama was heavy including a police helicopter flying overhead scanning the situation on the ground. It was learnt that there were about 100 police personnel assigned with also a few riot police being mobilised. However, no untoward incident happened and the demonstration proceeded smoothly with the crowd only dispersing about an hour later.

A reliable source also mentioned that the crowd could have been bigger but certain timber camp managers around Baram told their employees not to come down to Long Lama town.

Philip Jau, Chairman of Baram Protection Action Committee (BPAC) addressed the crowd saying that the majority of the people in Baram reject the proposed Baram Dam and the community leaders should not be made used by certain politicians in the government with vested interest.

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“Our ketua masyarakat (community leaders) should stand strong and listen to the peoples’ concerns instead of being easily manipulated by politicians with vested interest in this project. Do not abuse our community leaders,” Philip said.

Supporters of Temenggong Pahang numbering about 90 people did a counter demonstration inside the Long Lama Sub-District Office. The 90 people comprised mostly headmen and community leaders including Senator Lihan Jok and the State Assembly member for Telang Usan, Dennis Ngau.

Prior to the demonstration, the Native Court presided by a community chief, Penghulu Lenjau Kuleh, heard the case brought by Dorus Katan from Long Tap, Akah against another community chief of the Orang Ulu community, Temenggong Pahang Deng, for violating the Adet or customs of the Kayan-Kenyah community for lying.

The Native Court proceedings were initiated by Dorus after failing to get Temenggong Pahang to retract his statement in the Borneo Post article dated 18 May 2012 under the headline “Community Support for Baram Dam, A Federation of Orang Ulu Association Malaysia delegation conveys backing for project at a meeting with state leaders”.

In the article, Temenggong Pahang was quoted as saying that “After initial misgivings, the people who will be affected by the Baram Hydro Electric Project (HEP) have collectively agreed to give their support to its implementation.”

This statement according to Dorus is wrong, false and misleading and has created a lot of confusion and anger among the majority of the Orang Ulu community in Baram.

The case however, was struck out due to a technicality.

According to Dorus, he will review the Court’s decision by consulting legal experts and will decide soon on the next course of action.

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Mark Bujang is secretary of SAVE Rivers

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