No options for Penans
Citing a Norwegian newspaper report, tribal peoples’ advocacy group Survival International (Survival) said Sarawak Energy Bhd’s new CEO Torstein Sjotveit has been questioned about the impact the project would have on the Penan.
Sjotveit, who became SEB’s CEO on Nov 1 last year, claimed the Penan had been consulted, the Dagbladet reported on Feb 22, and that his company was complying with UN rules.The UN countenances developments on indigenous peoples’ land only after their free, prior and informed consent has been obtained.
But the Penan affected by the Murum hydroelectric dam say they have been told they have no choice but to leave their land, said Survival International on its website on Feb 24.
Citing the Dagbladet, Survival said a Penan by the name of Matur was quoted as saying: “Those who want to take over our land. will not allow us to fish, hunt or collect berries and plants.”
Sjotveit, added the UK-based activist group, told Dagbladet that 1,350 people would be affected by the Murum dam project.
“We are facing a dilemma between the need for development of the resources of the wider society and the wishes of the indigenous people to stay and live where they are,” Sjotveit said further.
Surival also recounted the arrest last September of six Penan and nine other indigenous people who were trying to hand in a statement about their opposition to the dams to the office of Sarawak’s Chief Minister.
The Human Rights Commission’s (Suhakam) which had said in its report on the Murum dam project: “Instead of giving options to the indigenous communities on whether or not to be resettled, the `consultations’ were carried out by the government was only used as a mechanism to inform the communities of the government’s decision and its impact towards those communities.”
The Murum dam is one of a series of large-scale hydroelectric projects being planned by the Sarawak state government which will see the displacement of thousands of indigenous people.
Survival said Penans who were resettled to make way for Sarawak’s existing Bakun dam have been unable to hunt or gather, and find it difficult to grow enough food on the small plots of land provided for them.