MIRI: The remaining Penan villagers in the Murum valley have rejected an initial offer of RM16,000 per family in compensation from the state government to move out of their longhouses.
Rejecting the offer and refusing to resettle mean they are in danger of being cut off from the outside world by the flooding of the RM4bil Murum dam reservoir.
Human rights group, Borneo Resources Institute, yesterday received information that the Penans in Murum, who are still living in their longhouses, had turned down the RM16,000 offer because they felt it was inadequate.
Institute coordinator Raymond Abin told The Star yesterday that the Penans from Long Luar, Long Tangau, Long Menapa, Long Singu and Long Jaik had refused to relocate and would continue to do so if the compensation deal was not to their satisfaction.
He said they were still protesting at their present settlements against the state’s plan to relocate them to the Metalun Resettlement Scheme.
“The state offered a RM16,000 deal for each affected family to relocate to Metalun as soon as possible.
“However, all the Penans at the remaining villages declined the offer. They refused to sign a deal to receive the compensation.
“What can they do with RM16,000?”
Raymond said under the initial negotiations, the amount proposed was at least RM500,000 for each affected family plus adequate land, as well as free electricity and water supply.
“The Penans who refused to accept the latest compensation offer will remain in their present settlements even though the impoundment of the Murum Dam reservoir (starting on Sept 26) is causing the water behind the dam wall to rise very fast.
“There is an increasing danger that the remaining Penan villagers (in Long Luar, Long Tangau, Long Menapa, Long Singu and Long Jaik) will soon be cut off from the outside world if their deadlock with the state government continues to remain unresolved,” Raymond said in an interview.
According to him, the water level is rising very fast in the Mu-rum valley, part of which is already submerged by water because of the flooding of the dam reservoir.
So far only the residents of three villages — Long Wat, Long Malim Penan and Long Malim Kenyah – have moved out of Murum Valley to the Tegulang Resettlement Scheme.
Raymond yesterday said the Metalun Resettlement Scheme would be used to house the rest of the Murum folk.
“I hope the state government will initiate another round of negotiations with the rest of the Murum Penans.
“The compensation package must be fair to them,” he said, adding that given the bad weather in interior Murum, he feared flood would hit the area before an agreement was reached.
He was worried that when the landas season entered its full stage, the Murum valley would be flooded faster than feared, thus trapping the remaining Penans and isolating them from the outside world.