Does Warisan really give a dam?

By Clement Stanley.

People not familiar with my home state of Sabah may not fully understand why the Kaiduan dam issue is blowing up in the face of the Warisan government.

Nonetheless, to simplify it, it is all about broken promises, trust issues and how it will affect the villagers in Kampung Kaiduan.

For years now the various Sabah state governments have known that with the growing demand for water, there was a need for another dam to complement the Babagon dam in the district of Penampang.

Millions of ringgit was spent on identifying a particular area for this, including the cost of feasibility studies. Surveys and all else were done until finally Kaiduan was identified as the best place to build a dam.

When it was publicly announced, there was an instantaneous protest from the villagers in that area. There were fears of villagers’ homes being submerged, livelihoods being affected, ancestral burial sites disappearing, native customary rights lands being lost and the displacement and relocation of up to 2,000 people from the place they called home. A task force against Kaiduan dam was formed, called TAKAD, and their chief spokeswoman, Diana Sipail has been extremely vocal about this issue.

To the local politicians, the proposed dam was something to feed on. This was an opportunity not to be missed. What better way to arouse sentiments than to hit on an issue that affected not only the people of Kaiduan but the public at large? On the one hand, you had the Barisan Nasional stoutly defending the need for the project and on the other hand you had Parti Warisan condemning it because so many people would be affected.

A bold decision had to be made. The battle had to be won. With the last throw of the dice, Parti Warisan made a promise that if it formed the new state government, the Kaiduan dam would be scrapped as would the Tanjung Aru Eco Development (TAED) project along Tanjung Aru beach and the surrounding area.

On Jul 5, Shafie Apdal, Warisan president and chief minister, said the TAED in Tanjung Aru would not be scrapped because of its importance to the state government.

The Warisan government is saying there will be no Kaiduan Dam. Instead, there will be the Papar dam.

Seriously? Isn’t it being built along the same river that runs through the same villages? You may not be building it in Penampang but in Kampung Bisuang in Kinarut instead. Are you not expecting another round of protests from the villagers as well? Perhaps more protests as this is more of a commercial area? Then what would you do?

Darell Leiking, the deputy president of Warisan, MP for Penampang, and now the international trade and industry minister, says he is trying his best to bring investors into the state and they, to quote him, always say water and electricity are huge problems in Sabah.

So it is very difficult. Surely, while campaigning prior to GE14, you and your colleagues must have been aware of this and known how important the dam was to the wellbeing of the state? So why the need to promise to scrap it?

In the final analysis, you may have brought premature joy to the people of Kaiduan and Kota Kinabalu with your promises to scrap Kaiduan dam and TAED. Just for a fleeting moment, some people may have believed their prayers had been answered when Warisan became the new government.

Without a doubt, the trust issue will be called upon – if not now, later.

But you can’t fool all the people all the time. I did not say it. Abraham Lincoln did.

Clement Stanley is a FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

Dam go-ahead shocks Sabah villagers