Baram all set for court battle

Baram folks showing their stance against the Baram Dam project in northern sarawak. They have filed a civil case in the Miri High Court to stop the move by the state government to acquire their native customary rights land for the project. pic by stephen.

MIRI: It will be an interesting “date” in the Miri High Court at the end of the month when the Baram folk in northern Sarawak will have their chance to use legal avenues to fight the proposed construction of the RM4bil Baram Dam project.

The Miri High Court has fixed Jan 28 to start preliminary proceedings in the civil case filed against the Sarawak Ministry of Resource Planning and Environment in relation to the Baram Dam project.

Save Sarawak Rivers, a non-governmental body in Baram fighting against the dam project, said the case would bring up very interesting issues with regards to the State Land Code.

Its chairman, Peter Kallang, yesterday said that the Baram folk had now turned to the High Court as the legal avenue was their best hope of stopping the project.

“The Baram folk are now fighting a legal battle against the state government which had made a move to extinguish the native customary land rights (NCR) in Baram to acquire our land for the building of the Baram Dam.

“The state had published a public gazette in a local newspaper on Jan 8 stating that 38,322ha of NCR land in Baram will be acquired by the State Ministry of Resources Planning under Section 3 (5) and (4) of the Sarawak Land Code.

“The Baram folk who are owners of these land have been given 60 days to submit their claims for (compensation of) their land before the acquisition takes effect.

“We Baram folk are saying that the provision in the said sections in the State Land Code is unfair because it had denied us our justful rights on the land where our ancestors had lived for centuries.

“We have already set up blockades since Oct 23, 2013 to stop any move to start the building of the dam project (located between Long Kesseh and Long Naah some 200km inland of Miri City).

“Now we have no choice but to resort to the court to prevent our land rights from being extinguished.

“Villagers Anyie Eng and five others had filed the law suit against the state ministry,” he said.

The Baram folk have sought the help of prominent lawyer Harrison Ngau to handle their case.

Kallang also said that the Baram folk had written to former prime pinister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to seek his support for their cause to stop the construction of any more mega-dams in Sarawak.

Dr Mahathir is scheduled to go to Kuching for a major conference on energy next week.

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