Orang Asli enticed with ‘brick houses’ to relocate for dam

Mustafa-Along-orang-asliPETALING JAYA: An Orang Asli activist has accused authorities in Kelantan of attempting to lure indigenous communities in Gua Musang away from their ancestral lands with dubious promises, to make way for the Nenggiri hydroelectric dam project.

Mustafa Along, secretary of the Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan (Jaringan), today said the people there were being told they would be given brick houses and roads, making some of them fall for the inducements and agree to relocate.

He said however that most residents who took up various offers in the past did not see the government fulfil their promises.

“For example, based on our experience in the Orang Asli villages of Hulu Jelai, all the promises made by the government were never realised,” he told FMT.

He was commenting on an assertion by Zainal Chali, the chairman of the Pos Tohoi Orang Asli village development and security committee, that about 200 families in the area were ready to relocate for the dam project.

Zainal was quoted by Utusan Malaysia as saying that the residents had opted to settle in Kampung Kuala Yai if the project went ahead and if the government agreed to their conditions.

Mustafa said not all the villagers, who live either on the fringes or interior of the rainforest there, had agreed to move out.

“Actually, only two villages are agreeable to the move, while six others that are also affected have objected,” he said, listing those who wanted to stay put as communities of Kampung Lah, Kampung Kuala Wook, Kampung Bering Baru, Kampung Bering Lama, Pos Pasik and Pos Simpor.

“They have generally opposed the project because they fear that it would adversely affect the natural food resources and ancestral lands that we have here,” he said.

He added that a memorandum to object to the project would be submitted to the state government soon.

About 200 Orang Asli families reportedly stand to lose their homes if the area covering some 5,834 hectares is flooded for the dam project.

The project is to be worked on simultaneously with the much bigger Lebir hydroelectric power dam project nearby which would entail a rainforest area of 15,400 hectares vanishing under a flood.

On March 23, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Maximus Johnity Ongkili told the Dewan Rakyat that a study on the acceptance of the local residents and the social impact of the dams found that about 1,000 Orang Asli settlers would possibly be relocated if the two projects were implemented.

He said discussions were ongoing to consider the views of the public, NGOs and the overall cost of the project.

The Orang Asli of Gua Musang set up blockades last year to put a stop to rampant logging in the jungles that they depend on for their livelihood and sustenance.

However, the blockades were dismantled by the forestry department in January, with several Orang Asli and activists arrested.