Clear air over Papar Dam location, says assistant minister

Sabah Assistant Education and Innovation Minister Jenifer Lasimbang (in jacket) officiates at a state library event in Kota Kinabalu today

KOTA KINABALU: As the guessing game over the site of the proposed Papar Dam goes on, an assistant state minister and assemblyman admitted today she is also in the dark over its exact location.

Jenifer Lasimbang, the assistant education and innovation minister and Moyog assemblyman, acknowledged that there has been concern over where the controversial project will be built.

Urging the state infrastructure development ministry to reveal the location, Lasimbang said: “We haven’t seen anything in any black and white.”

She said she was aware that Mondoringin in Ulu Papar, which Infrastructure Development Minister Peter Anthony visited previously, had been proposed but there had been no formal announcement.

“So what we’re asking for is an official statement, working papers and other reports,” Lasimbang said.

“We must respect human rights and the rights of our indigenous peoples.

“We have to go through the tedious and important process of free, prior and informed consent.

“We must ensure people actually believe in the government in upholding the principles of transparency, accountability and responsibility,” she told reporters after an event here today.

Lasimbang had opposed the previous Kaiduan Dam in the Penampang parliamentary constituency, where her Moyog state seat lies.

She campaigned against the project, which has now been scrapped, with Penampang MP Darell Leiking and her sister Jannie, the DAP Kapayan assemblyman, when they were in the opposition prior to GE14.

The scrapping of the Kaiduan project last year brought relief to the residents but their hopes were soon dashed after the state government announced it was planning to build the Papar Dam.

Lasimbang said she met with native and village chiefs in Moyog, including the village chief of Ulu Papar, on Saturday to gather their feedback on the Papar Dam project.

“We had a long discussion. Their villages will be among those affected if the project is constructed.

“They have appealed to me to push for the infrastructure development ministry to hold a dialogue so they can find out more details and take appropriate action,” she said.

Lasimbang said the reaction so far has been mixed.

“Some have rejected the project outright while others want more information. And there are also those who say it doesn’t matter because they need water,” she said.

Asked for her own opinion, Lasimbang said: “We objected against the Kaiduan Dam previously but in my new role as an elected representative, I need to listen and bring forward the views of the people. My personal opinion does not count.”

She said she has been engaging Chief Minister Shafie Apdal and Anthony on the matter and will continue to do so.