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Villagers shocked at ‘sudden’ loss of NCR rights

 | March 26, 2012

Bruno Manser Fund accuses SEB CEO Torstein Dale Sjotveit of 'deliberately misleading' the public with regards to the construction of the 12 dams in the state.

MIRI: The natives of Baram, affected by the construction of the Baram dam, are claiming that they were not aware of the extinguishment of their native customary rights (NCR) over their land.

Accusing the government of surreptitiously implementing its contentious plans to build the dam, they said that they were unaware that the government had begun extinguishing such rights since last June.

“Most of the landowners are not aware of the extinguishment exercise on their land. It means they have lost their rights and will not be paid any compensation,” said Peter Kallang, chairman of the SAVE Rivers Network.

Kallang said usually land owners are given a period of 60 days to submit their NCR claims over the acquired land.

If they failed to submit their claims, then they would not be paid any compensation.

According to Kallang, one of the landowners, Dorus Katan went with eight others to seek information from the Land and Survey Department, and to their surprise, the department had carried out its survey works.

“There was a lot of dissatisfaction because the survey work was done without proper consultation. As a result, their crops, plants, fruit and rubber trees were felled and destroyed,” he said.

Kallang said that some 70 natives from Baram held a meeting in Miri last Friday to discuss a joint letter which is to be addressed to the CEO of Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), Torstein Dale Sjotveit.

“The letter wants the SEB to stop all works which are related to the construction of the dams,” he said, saying that copies of the letter are to be sent to the Prime Minister, the Sarawak Chief Minister, Suhakam, Baram MP Dungau Sagan and Telang Usan sssemblyman Dennis Ngau.

Said Kallang: “In implementing projects of this nature, we request for the authorities to abide by the international standard and requirements especially the United Nation Declaration for the Right of the Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

“The rights of the indigenous people must be respected and they must not be relocated against their will.”

‘SEB chief lying to public’

Meanwhile, the Norwegian CEO of Sarawak Energy Berhad Torstein Dale Sjotveit came under fire for systematically withholding information on the implementation of 12 planned dams in Sarawak.

In a statement emailed to FMT, the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) said: “Despite demands from local communities and opposition politicians for full transparency over the Sarawak dam plans, Sarawak Energy is deliberately and systematically pushing forward its dam plans under a cloud of secrecy.

“According to official plans, the 12 dams are to be completed by 2020 despite growing criticism over a power glut caused by the recent completion of the 2400 MW Bakun dam, Asia’s largest hydro-power project outside China.

“Native communities affected by the 900MW Murum dam, which is currently under construction, complain that they have never (been) properly informed on this project which will cause the displacement of thousands of locals.

“The Murum construction site has been sealed off from the public and no journalists have been allowed to visit the site.

“It is open secret that the dam is being constructed by a workforce of thousands of Chinese workers brought to Sarawak by contractors from mainland China, ” the statement said.

BMF also pointed out that the 100MW Baram dam, which is to be started soon, is being pushed forward in massive violation of the affected communities’ basic right to information.

“The locals are kept in the dark in order to stifle potential opposition against the dam,” noted BMF.

The 100MW Baram dam will cause the flooding of large tracts of the Borneo rainforest and the displacement of over 20,000 indigenous people. The earlier Bakun dam had also similarly drowned a land size as big as Singapore.

According to BMF Sjotveit is ‘deliberately’ misleading the public on matters related to the issue.

“Sjotveit’s conduct is appalling and absolutely unacceptable. In Norway, he would be charged for fraud for deliberately misleading the public in such a deceitful way.

“With an annual salary of 1.2 million US dollars, Sjotveit is one Malaysia’s best-paid executives. He works under Hamid Sepawi, the first cousin of Sarawak’s extremely corrupt Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud,” alleged BMF.

The BMF calls on SEB to release all relevant plans and information on the dam to the public, including maps, feasibility studies, environment and social impact assessments, projects finances and resettlement plans.


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