Aid from the government and Sarawak Energy Berhad are only ‘cosmetic and short-term’ solutions that don't equip Penans for their new life, claims lawyer Abun Sui Anyit
Resettled in their new longhouse at Tegulang, the community however is uncertain and to some extent afraid, said their spokesman and lawyer Abun Sui Anyit.
Anyit said he had spoken with the Murum Dam Development Committee chairman Labang Paneh, and the latter had told him that he (Labang) did not know what to do next in regards to the Penans resettlement issue, especially about their long-term plans for their livelihood in the Tegulang new longhouse.
“If their leaders do not know what to do next, what more to say those common people. Generally, they (the resettled Penans) have no choice but to listen to whatever the government decides for them.
“They are still clueless with life at the new site, and are still unfamiliar with the new environments,” said Anyit.
On Saturday, Hulu Rejang MP Wilson Ugak Kumbong reminded the Penans resettled at Tegulang to adapt to a new attitude and lifestyle so that they can become a successful community after their resettlement.
“I would also like to advise your community to learn all the positive things to be successful especially in getting resettled here at Tegulang and let this community become a role model for other Penan communities who have yet to be resettled.
“Be willing to learn new things such as farming and sending your children to school as these would make your community progress like other communities,” Ugak was reported to have said.
The MP also said the government was always prepared to help the Penans by providing technical support such as in agricultural activities as well as education and health.
He also promised to bring more progress to the resettlement in Tegulang but that it would take some time to materialise.
Short term solutions
Meanwhile Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) was reportedly supporting the livelihood and wellbeing of the community through its CSR initiative.
On Satutrday, SEB gave away Astro ‘NJOI’ service and a new television sets to each of the 39 blocks at both Tegulang and Metalun.
The corporation also distributing other household items such as mattresses, pillows, gas cylinders, cooking stoves, rice, sugar, salt, cooking oil, sago starch, coffee, tea, milk to each family.
The other six villages affected by the construction of Murum Dam, Long Menapa, Long Luar, Long Tangau, Long Singu, Long Malim Penan and Long Malim Kenyah would be resettled soon following the impoundment of the dam on September 21.
Amyit however, said the Penans from Long Wat mostly saw the support as ‘short term’ solutions and assistance to them.
“Previously, in their old longhouse, they lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle, depending on jungle produce, shift farming, hunting and fishing, totally depending on the jungle.
“With the building of the dam, their livelihoods were totally affected. Now they do not even know how they can continue with their old lifestyle, except to go back where they used to farm, hunt and fish.
“But because they are limited by the construction of the dam, currently they do not know what to do next,” said Anyit.
The Penans, he said, were not too eager about their new homes, and they were not happy having to follow whatever what the government told them to do.
“Support from the government and SEB are only cosmetic. They should be involved in any progress in their new homes.
“They must have new livelihoods, such as being involved in plantations or any other development. These must be also benefit them, not causing them to suffer like this,” said Anyit