Home Civil Society Voices 2012 Civil Society Voices Malaysian NGOs fully support indigenous peoples’ Murum Dam blockade

Malaysian NGOs fully support indigenous peoples’ Murum Dam blockade

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More than 50 NGOs have signed a petition supporting the Penans’ struggle against the construction of the Murum Dam.

The Penans have been blockading against the construction of the 944MW Murum Dam since 26 September 2012. More than 1600 Penans from eight Penan villages (including one Kenyah Badeng longhouse) are affected by the construction of the dam which is now about 80 percent% completed. The Penan communities affected by the Murum Dam have shown a commitment to defend their rights and Malaysians must give them full solidarity and support their struggle in all possible ways.

The Murum Penan communities are among the poorest in Malaysia. They have traditionally been hunter-gatherers but shifted to a more settled, agriculture-based way of life approximately 40 years ago. They rely on subsistence-based farming and hunting, fishing and gathering of forest products and the occasional sale of in-season fruit. Their livelihood has been adversely affected by low farm productivity and rapidly declining forest resources because of plantation and dam-building projects.

Irresponsible projects

The Sarawak state government with federal government support has been carrying out highly irresponsible economic projects to the detriment of the environment, the indigenous peoples’ lives and the long-term interest of the Sarawak and Malaysian tax payers.

The 2400MW Bakun Dam project has already proven to be a major fiasco not only in terms of insufficient demand for its electricity generated but a disaster for the 10000 indigenous peoples who were displaced from their traditional ancestral land to the slum conditions of the resettlement scheme at Sg Asap. Those who cherish their heritage and human rights would describe their fate as ETHNOCIDE if they have seen for themselves the conditions at Sg Asap.

The total energy demand in the whole of Sarawak is only around 1000MW so the government has been trying to attract the biggest energy guzzlers such as aluminium smelters, which happen to be the most toxic as well. Another investment is a coal-fired power station to supply the energy. These environmentally polluting industries are then touted as part of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score).

Hydro-electric power dams and toxic aluminium smelters are all industries rejected by the developed countries. None of these countries, especially Australia, wants to have toxic industries in their own backyard. But the Sarawak state government is willing to have these mega projects for rather dubious purposes. The desperate chase for investments to take up the excess Bakun energy AFTER the dam has been built shows a total lack of economic feasibility studies which should have been done before the dam was built. Is it surprising therefore that many ScoreE contracts have been given to companies owned by members of Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s family?

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There are many energy alternatives for Sarawak beyond large hydroelectric power projects such as small-scale hydropower, solar and other forms of renewable energy, energy efficiency measures, more efficiently run and managed power plants, among others. Above all, such environmentally friendly power projects respect the indigenous peoples’ lifestyles while efforts can put into helping them with better transport systems, marketing channels and other forms of development they may require.

Damned lives

As if this Bakun Dam fiasco was not enough, the Sarawak state government intends to build 12 mega dams in all which will strip the state of its rainforest and displace even more indigenous communities. The Murum Dam is the first of these 12 dams. The dam construction is being supervised by China Three Gorges Corporation and built by Chinese dam builder Sinohydro. After their massive investments in the Three Gorges project, you can be sure these Chinese companies are hungry for investments in other hydropower projects in Sarawak.

With such a large development scheme, international best practice calls for a ‘strategic environmental and social assessment’. Such an assessment looks at the overall impact that a large development scheme can have as was done for the proposed Greater Mekong Sub-region energy network by the Asian Development Bank. No such strategic economic, environmental and social assessment has been conducted for ScoreE.

If the Bakun Dam project is to be any guide, the Sarawak government’s energy demand forecasts appear to be based more on nothing more than wishful thinking rather than detailed feasibility studies. Malaysian taxpayers, be warned that all these mega projects will entail an onerous debt burden on the Sarawak and Malaysian public. You can be sure that there will be electricity tariff hikes after the 13th general elections.

Murum Dam violates international standards

The Murum Dam project is in violation of the international standards on indigenous rights as guaranteed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UndripP), of which Malaysia is a signatory. The Murum Dam is nearing completion but the resettlement report is still being withheld. As for the Bakun Dam, all studies related to the projects have not been transparent. The affected Penan and Kenyah have stated that they have never been asked for consent as demanded by Undrip. The project developer, Sarawak’s state-owned electricity generating company, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), has not provided indigenous communities with an opportunity to grant or withhold their “free, prior and informed consent” for the project as required by Undrip. Even in cases where there was agreement, it was neither FREE from coercion; the resettlement plan was not made known to the indigenous peoples PRIOR to the start of the construction, and they were not informed by access to information about the project’s impact.

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SEIA for Murum seriously slawed

The social and environmental impact assessment (SEIA) for the Murum project is seriously flawed. International standards – such as the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards – universally require that the SEIA must be completed during the design phase, before the government approves the project and before construction begins. This was not the case with the Murum Dam Project. The SEIA process did not even begin until after construction on the project was already underway. The Sarawak government has not yet disclosed the Murum Dam Project’s full SEIA to the public or to the affected communities.

The indigenous peoples’ demands

Without transparent access to the crucial information at the centre of this project, the affected communities were placed in an unfair situation when the Sarawak government asked them to negotiate a resettlement package. The monthly allowance to be paid after resettlement falls below the poverty level and ends after four years. However, the state government turned down the other demands of the Penan, which included compensation of RM500000 for each family for the loss of their customary land. Their other demands were 30000 hectares of land for every village, 25 hectares for every farming family, education for their children, a community development fund and rights to their land that is not submerged by the dam waters. The indigenous communities affected by the Murum Dam project have already issued a memorandum describing how the government could still remedy the situation.

Support the Murum indigenous peoples’ blockade

Only a successful blockade can achieve justice and fair compensation for the indigenous peoples. Please sign the Murum Appeal at http://www.sarawakreport.org/murum-appeal or at [email protected]. You can support their blockade by donating to their cause via Brimas’ bank account as follows to show your solidarity.

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Account Holder: Borneo Resource Institute Sarawak (BRIMAS)
Bank Name: Alliance Bank, Miri Branch
Account No: 110270010017894

Any donation, please email to [email protected], or fax to 085-438 580, attention to ‘Mark, Save Rivers’. Tel: 085-423 044


Damn the Dams Action Group


1. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

2. People’s Documentary

3. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)

4. Civil Rights Committee of KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)

5. People’s Green Coalition

6. Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JKOASM)

7. Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)

8. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)

9. Kill The Bill

10. Mamas Bersih

11. Northen Green Youth

12. Sunflower Electoral Education Movement (SEED)

13. Lawyer for Liberty

14. Tenaganita

15. Save Malaysia Stop Lynas (SMSL)

16. Pertubuhan Solidariti Hijau Kuantan (PSHK)

17. Anak Muda Sarawak (AMS)

18. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)

19. Education and Research Association for Consumers (ERA Consumer) Malaysia

20. Himpunan Hijau

21. Friends of Suaram (FOS) Working Committee Johor

22. Centre for Policy Initiatives

23. Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)

24. Pusat Komas

25. Pertubuhan Gelombang Hijau Kuantan Pahang

26. Stop Lynas Coalition (SLC)

27. Institute For Development of Alternative Living (IDEAL)

28. Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)

29. Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI)

30. Malaysian Youth Care Association (PRIHATIN)

31. People’s Welfare and Rights Coalition (POWER)

32. Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (MITRA)

33. Angkatan Nasional India Malaysia (AGNI)

34. Youth section of Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall

35. SAVE Sarawak’s Rivers Network (SAVE Rivers)

36. Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers’ Alliance (SILA)

37. Borneo Resources Institute (BRIMAS)

38. Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (TAHABAS)

39. Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA)

40. Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (SCANE)

41. Baram Protection Action Committeee (BPAC)

42. Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM Selangor & KL

43. Women section of KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

44. Kelab bangsar utama

45. Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)

46. 528 Media Action Team

47. UPM Student Progressive Front

48. USM Student Progressive Front

49. UUM Student Progressive Front

50. NEC Student Progressive Front

51. UM New Youth

52. Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia

53. Sibu Bersih Working Group

54. Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Agus Subang
Agus Subang
13 Nov 2012 6.45am

You are absolutely right ! Greed for wealth and power makes man to care nothing for this world . This is CAPITALIST MENTALITY !

najib manaukau
10 Nov 2012 1.32pm

This is Umno’s way to ‘damn’ the indigenous people in poverty for good and at the same time in the name of progress and also to for their (alleged) commissions.
So people of Sarawak wake up … and make sure you vote the opposition in the coming GE to have the morons from Umno kicked out of Putrajaya and above all have them kicked out of Sabah and Sarawak !

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