A number of community leaders in the Sg. Asap and Sg.Koyan near Bakun expressed their disappointment over the way government have treated them over the unpaid water bills issue as highlighted in a national news agency yesterday.
Jack Paran, 51, from Uma Kelab (longhouse), claimed that all 15 longhouse chiefs in the area had recently met officials from the department, LAKU Management Sdn Bhd (a wholly-owned state government agency) to supply portable water and collect revenue from here, Miri and Limbang and others.
“Despite having requested the government to scrap the unsettled bills since 1998, we are sad and disappointed that a decision had been made,” he told Bernama on Monday.
“With the Christmas season around the corner, where a few thousands working away from the scheme would be returning home and a wedding or two would be planned in December, I will feel very sorry for them.
“And, what if we have to mourn the death of someone in the community after Dec 16?,” he asked.
Another leader, former councillor Laing Lerong, 68, hoped the government could come up with an amicable solution to their predicament.
“We do not want to pick up any quarrel with the government. We just hope it can sympathise with us, as not everyone can settle their outstanding bills at one go,” he said.
Penghulu Saging Bit, of Uma Belor, appealed to the government for a deferment or to settle the arrears in installments or perhaps, scrap the arrears.
He hoped the government would consider their problem fairly as they had sacrificed much for the sake of the country. Most of the residents, he said, were poor and did not have regular income.
“We have made sacrifices to make way for the RM3.2 billion hydro project which is the biggest in the nation and scheduled for completion in June 2010.
“We hope the government could reciprocrate,” he said.
Photo: Penan Talun longhouse, Sg. Koyan in Asap area.
Penan Talun worst affected
One of the communities that will be badly affected by the government decision on December 16 will be the 20 odds Penan Talun families at Sg. Koyan which is part of the larger Sg. Asap resettlement scheme.
Jack Paran said “When the supply is discontinued as scheduled, they may be forced to return to the jungle”.
“As it is now, about two families enjoy power supply as the rest cannot afford to pay for the monthly bills,” he noted.
He said compared to the other Orang Ulu groups like the Kayan or the Kenyah, the Penan could not simply catch up economically.
“They cannot even catch up, even if you give them agricultural projects to provide income to sustain themselves,” he said.
Now there are worries of what will happen to the Penan in Murum areas. They too will be relocated to make way for another multi-billion ringgit dam in Murum.
As in Sg. Asap these Penan communities have been promised a better life after they are resettled by the state government.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu said they would be given improved amenities, social and economic activities for a sustainable livelihood reported The Star on Nov 6.
“They will have a better (resettled) life than they have now,” he told Dominic Ng Kim Ho (PKR-Padungan) during question time in the state assembly.
Ng asked if the consent of the Penans from six settlements had been sought on the relocation exercise, and how they would be resettled.
Preliminary work on the 900MW Murum project, the biggest after the 2,400MW Bakun dam project, has started.