Penans staged blockades on their own will, and reports of Sarawak Energy contractors burning their old longhouses came directly from the victims, claims SAVE Rivers Network.
SAVE Rivers Network chairman Peter Kallang said: “It’s a lie. SEB is trying to paint the picture that we (the NGOs) are trying to instigate the people there.
“In fact, we were never even there.”
Kallang was responding to SEB’s latest press statement accusing the coalition of NGOs of instigating the Penans to protest the construction of the dam.
On Monday, SEB reportedly caimed that it is concerned about the ‘irresponsible act of spreading lies and the attempts to create panic among the public by certain NGOs in relation to the Murum HEP”.
“Since the closure of the diversion tunnel gate and the start of the reservoir filling on Saturday, 21 September 2013, Sarawak Energy has received numerous queries from the media and members of the public based on a malicious misinformation campaign being carried out by certain NGOs.
“The reports are the latest chapter in a long running campaign of vilification directed at Sarawak Energy and the state.
“While Sarawak Energy does not usually respond to the baseless allegations, the latest accusations demand our robust correction as we are currently carrying out discussions on their (Penans) requests.
“However, there are also a number of outsiders present at site and Sarawak Energy will not entertain their requests,” SEB said in the statement.
Blockades still ongoing
According to the statement, the Penan community are in discusisons over faster relocation to the new longhouses to wanting clarification on the compensation packages.
The company, however, did not mention any blockades by the natives in the statement.
Kallang while acknowledging that SEB was in “some meetings” with the Kapit Resident and Belaga District Officer, and the Penans, said the natives had not stopped their blockades.
“They (the Penans) did put up the blockade, therefore stopping access into the Murum site. If not, why would the Resident and the DO would come up to meet them there?” He said.
Kallang had on Monday posted on his facebook that SEB workers had committed arson on a Penan village in Belaga and several of the natives’ boats was sunk as well, subsequent to the unexpected impoundment of the Murum Dam on Saturday.
But SEB denied this.
In a statement, SEB claimed that the purported fire on the longhouse was “part of a dismantling process” allowing for the materials to be ” recycled and reused by the community”
“As per the agreement reached during community consultations with the Long Wat community, after all families are relocated, the old longhouse will be dismantled so that materials can be recycled and reused by the community.
“Sarawak Energy has also provided the community with transportation to carry the remainder of their belongings and the recycled materials from the old longhouse to the new resettlement village. To date, some families have collected their belongings and some are still in progress,” SEB said.
It also added that the suggestion that SEB staff have committed arson by ‘the irresponsible NGOs is offensive but typical of the vile lies propagated by the opponents of the company’.
Kallang in return has called SEB “liars”.
“These are not lies. These were reports that we got from the ground in Murum. The Penans had told us that they (SEB) had burnt the longhouse. They saw it themselves.
“When the Penans asked the contractors (dismantling works, also the ones allegedly burning the longhouse), they were told it was within the scope of the (work) contract. But the Penans said they were not sufficiently informed about this,.
“The contractors are doing anything they want on the Penans. The Penans should not be treated like this,” Kallang told FMT