The Sarawak People’s Movement (Gasak) demands that the authorities remove the barrier placed at the Baram Dam site blocking the rightful landowners from gaining access to their NCR land.
In solidarity with the blockade which is ongoing in Baram, a demonstration and handing over of memorandum to the Miri Division Forestry Department and the Miri Division Police Department was led by the Gerakan Anak Sarawak or the Sarawak People’s Movement in Miri on 14 November.
Meanwhile villagers against the Baram Dam reinstated the barricade on the access road to the proposed site for the Baram dam. The villagers then removed the barrier placed by the Forestry Department which was meant to secure the area for the logging company. They then built their own hut police post at the location to ensure that illegal logging and construction of the access road is stopped.
The peaceful demonstration was held in front of the Forestry Department office at Pelita Tunku in the city centre. Most of the demonstrators were Baram folks who are based in Miri. Supporters from Gasak, the newly formed state-wide human rights movement, were also mostly from Miri and surrounding villages.
The group was led by the Gasak president Abun Sui, a land rights lawyer and member of the Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers Alliance (Sila). Commenting on the action taken, Abun Sui said, “The government must respect the law and human rights. The authorities must never use their power to bully and suppress civilians.”
The memorandum was successfully handed over to the Miri Divisional Forestry Department and the police headquarters in Miri by Abun Sui, accompanied by representatives of organisations which are all members of Gasak. One villager, Anyie Eng from Na’ah, who owns some land at the proposed dam site said, “We request the government to hear the plea of the people. Building the dam will flood our land and rob us of our future.”
At the blockade site in Long Keseh, the villagers are disappointed with the loggers, MM Golden, and the forestry officers who gang up to remove the blockade placed by the villagers. Each time that happens, the blockaders reinstate it. They called on the government to please exercise prudence and justice and respect native rights.
Contents of the memorandum to the Forestry Department and the police
In the memorandum the protestors demand that:
- the Director of Forests, Sarawak to revoke the logging permit issued for extraction of timber at the proposed Baram Dam site and for the construction of an access road to the same. The permit for re-entry given to Autorich Sdn Bhd for logging must be withdrawn.
- the Forestry Department, the police GOF and their agents remove the barrier that they had placed at the location to block the rightful landowners from gaining access to their NCR land.
- personnel from the forestry department and the police GOF must clear the site and leave immediately.
- the Forestry Department and the police GOF and their agents must respect the rights of the indigenous peoples to their Native Customary Rights Land. Under the law, a licence is subject to the NCR of the people living in the area.
- As of this moment, no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies have been carried out in the area as required by the law. The requirement for an EIA must be respected, implemented and taken seriously including the principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.