Sarawak set to take ownership of Bakun dam


PETALING JAYA: Sarawak will soon take over ownership of the Bakun Hydroelectric Power Dam after its sukuk owner sanctioned its sale at an extraordinary general meeting in Putrajaya on Friday.

The Borneo Post reported today that the sale and purchase agreement (S&P) for the transaction, said to be valued at RM8.1 billion, was now being finalised.

Zulkifle Osman
Zulkifle Osman

It quoted Zulkifle Osman, CEO and managing director of Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd (SHSB), the owner and operator of the dam, as saying that it would be handed over to the state government from the Ministry of Finance (MoF).

“We only need one or two more ‘Condition Precedents’ to be made before the S&P is finalised anytime in the month of August.

“After the S&P is signed, then we will hand over Bakun to the Sarawak government,” Zulkifle was quoted as saying yesterday.

On March 8, Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg announced that the state’s electricity utility firm, Sarawak Energy Bhd, would acquire the entire equity of SHSB from the MoF and the Federal Land Commission.

The purchase price was RM2.5 billion in cash and RM5.6 billion in net debt outstanding as of end-December 2016.

He had said that with the deal the ownership and operation of Malaysia’s largest hydropower electric plant will be fully returned to Sarawak.

The move had been heatedly questioned by state opposition members who said it may turn into a huge financial burden for Sarawak.

It blew up at the state assembly in May when DAP’s Pelawan assemblyman David Wong criticised the price of RM8.1 billion, questioning if the government had overpaid for the dam.

Dr Sim Kui Hian
Dr Sim Kui Hian

State local government and housing minister Dr Sim Kui Hian defended the purchase, saying it was an important component in Sarawak’s financial autonomy.

Stressing that the construction was originally financed by the federal government and therefore the structure was rightfully theirs, the Batu Kawah assemblyman said it would take at least another five years to construct such a dam today.

“So it’s wrong to say that Bakun (already) belongs to us because it’s situated in our borders. Who paid the money to build Bakun?” he said.

Meanwhile, the Borneo Post also quoted Belaga assemblyman Liwan Lagang as saying that the change of ownership would hopefully benefit those affected by the construction of the dam, which was completed in 2011.

Liwan Lagang
Liwan Lagang

“I hope that the new owner, SEB, will have a better plan to provide all the basic necessities for those living below the Bakun Dam,” he reportedly said.

“At the moment, they are only bystanders of what is going on by looking at transmission lines above their heads, but they are still (using) kerosene lamps. Even their road is a roller coaster road,” he added.

The assistant state minister of water supplies was also quoted as saying that he wished to see a proper plan for the whole Belaga district where the dam was built.

“But on the positive side, the dam is a game changer for all stakeholders. So now, we can plan together so that everyone will benefit from this major acquisition,” he was quoted as saying.