MIRI: Enforcement teams from the Sarawak Forestry Department, the police and the General Operations Force have dismantled blockades that were set up by the natives in ulu Baram to stop the construction of the proposed RM4bilBaram Hydroelectric Dam in interior northern Sarawak, 200km inland from Miri City.
The enforcement personnel dismantled the blockades at Long Kesseh over the past 24 hours but did not arrest any of the protestors.
Yesterday, both politicians and human rights organisations confirmed the incident to Metro Sarawak that the blockades had been torn down but none of the natives were detained.
State Assemblyman for Telang Usan Dennis Ngau said he had been informed that the enforcement teams had indeed taken apart the blockades and that they were now in control of the site.
“Yes, I was told that the blockades had been dismantled. The police and the forestry people had established control over the area.
“I was also informed that no arrests were made. That is good. The blockades have ended without any physical confrontations and without anyone getting arrested.
“I hope this will put an end to the protests there,” he said.
Ngau, who is also Barisan Nasional youth chief for Baram, said he wanted to see the Baram Dam project start off as planned and that he hoped the protestors would see the benefit of the project that would be able to uplift the socio-economic standard of life for the whole of Baram.
Save Sarawak Rivers, the native rights group that had been leading the blockades, also confirmed that the enforcement authorities tore down the blockades set up by the natives but did not detain any of the protestors.
Its chairman, Peter Kallang, said the enforcement authorities sent back-up squads all the way from Miri City and had been at the blockade sites for the past two days.
“Today, the blockades set up by the protesting natives have been totally dismantled by these enforcement people. The police and the forestry people have cordoned off the area by setting up barriers but they did not arrest anyone.
“Initially, the police said they wanted the protestors to be detained in the Miri police station, but after much discussions at the site, they agreed that the protestors be allowed to go back to the longhouses to prepare for the All Saints and All Souls celebrations (at Catholic churches) today (Friday), tomorrow and Sunday.
“After we have finished the church events, we will come back again to the blockade sites. Even though the enforcement people may have dismantled the blockades, it does not mean that the fight to stop Baram Dam has ceased,” he said.
Kallang accused the enforcement people of siding with illegal loggers whom he said were already extracting timber at the proposed Baram Dam site even though the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) studies had not been completed.
He said the illegal loggers also extracted endangered species of Tapang trees that were totally protected under the law.
“Two days ago, two men working for the illegal loggers were fined RM10,000 each by the Miri Sessions Court for offences relating to bribery against the MACC (Malaysian Anti Corruption Agency).
“They paid the fine and were immediately released. How can these illegal loggers get away so easily with so little punishment?” he questioned.
Kallang noted that all timber harvesting activities at the proposed dam site should be stopped for now pending investigations into two reports that the ulu Baram people had lodged against illegal logging activities on land over which they have native customary rights.
He posted on his website some pictures of what he said were illegally-harvested logs in Long Kesseh, ulu Baram.
He also posted photos of some ulu Baram natives who continue to show defiance against the enforcement authorities and illegal loggers at Long Kesseh despite their blockades having been destroyed.
“This is not the end of our struggle to stop the Baram Dam,” he said.
On Oct 28 this year, the villagers came down to Miri City and lodged a report with the MACC and another with the Miri police against the illegal loggings.
These cases are still pending investigations.
The proposed Baram Dam is to be sited between Long Kesseh and Long Naah in ulu Baram.
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