Sarawak Government and the real owner of the highly controversial Murum hydroelectric project, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) had succeeded in resettling hundred of Kenyah and Penan to their new house at Tegulang, in the first phase of the resettlement process yesterday.
The moving-in operation has not ran as smooth as the relevant parties had hope for despite positive vibes in the local and national dailies. The whole project had always been bogged down by controversies.
Environmentalists, human rights group, NGOs locally and abroad have been it strongest opponents since the very beginning, criticizing the lack of transparency, no proper environmental impacts assessment study, it viability and even suggested it was an extravagant waste of public funds citing cost and benefit analysis study.
The affected communities have not been sitting idle either. Just before the moving-in operation started, several affected Penan communities mount a blockade in the area, saying they had not been fully consulted, advised and misled on the ‘actual’ impacts of the dam project.
The protest blockade persisted for few weeks forcing police intervention – led to the hauled up of the group leader and key individuals to Belaga lock-up.
Yesterday, hours before the moving-in parties arrived at Tegulang, another blockade was erected. This time by a group of Kenyah Badeng from nearby village, who claimed the Tegulang resettlement complex sit on their native customary right lands.
The blocked eventually dismantled peacefully after intervention from Belaga Assemblyman and also an Assistant Minister in the State cabinet.
Despite the resistant, foreign pressure, Sarawak Government and SEB were determined to see the Penan and Kenyah communities along the Murum river valley to be relocated before whole areas being totally submerged, to enable the multi-billion Murum dam operation by next year.
They succeeded. Hundred of Penan and Kenyah from 161 families had been relocated to Tegulang since September this year.
Only half of the affected villagers still remain in Murum dam areas and they are expected to be fully relocated before year end.
The remaining villagers are that of Long Menapah, Long Singu, Long Luar and Long Tangau. According to local NGOs many of these villagers would opt to remain if given the option.
It is not only the affected villages that are anxious. State Government officials are also equally anxious awaiting the second phase of the resettlement operation at Metalun, now that Tegulang had settled.
However, Belaga state Assemblyman, also State Assistant Minister of Social Development (Culture and Heritage) Liwan Lagang expressed confident that the yet to be resettled Penan from the four villages would make the wise choice to move.
“They need to figure out who can bring real help and development to them. The government has given them a fair deal and had taken into consideration their future.
“So, I urge them to make their decision based on the future of their community, and not popular sentiments stirred up by those with ulterior motive,” reports The Borneo Post.
Once fully impounded, Murum dam will flood an area about the size of Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur or some 24,500 hectares of land.