A litany of broken promises

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 21 Nov 2006

SILAM: Ask the 418 families of Kampung Teluk Soiaun about the proposed coal-fired power plant to be built next to the village and they will tell a tale of broken promises. 

It is not the environment or heath concerns that are on their minds. Their worries are over something more basic – will they still have a place to call home? 

MYSTERY LOGS: Villagers who were retrenched and told that there was no good lumber in thearea are mystified by the appearance of logs at the former Pacific Hardwood Timber Complex.

The villagers have been told to make way for the project that will bring light into their houses. Ironically, they wonder whether they will still have homes to light up. 

The village was previously the workers quarters for the Pacific Hardwood integrated timber complex.  

The seafront land adjacent to their village where the complex stands has been earmarked for a Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) coal-fired power plant. 

Even their elected representative has not been able to provide answers. 

“They have all washed their hands. I have become a football,” said Ahmad Ismail, who has been at the forefront pleading on behalf of the families with the state government to gazette the land on which they live as a village reserve. 

Ahmad, an ordinary Umno member, said Lahad Datu Umno’s former people development leader Ali Andu Enjil had helped the villagers apply for village reserve status for the land and averted three attempts by Yayasan Sabah to tear down the settlement. 

Ahmad: ‘I won’t have a kampungsoon if the coal fuelplant is built’

“Our YBs made promises after promises, giving us hope to our dreams of owning a house in a village reserve,” Ahmad said, showing copies of correspondence with state officials including the Governor and the Chief Minister.  

He also showed declarations signed by his MP and assemblyman promising to gazette the workers quarters into a kampung reserve after they won the 2004 general election. 

Word about the coal plant first reached the Soiaun villagers earlier this year when an SESB manager met Ahmad in July and asked for his comments if the coal plant project were to go ahead.  

The next blow came when Ahmad saw a Yayasan Sabah letter dated Aug 18 to Pacific Hardwood notifying that the Lahad Datu District Council had agreed to the demolition of their houses.  

“I went to see my YB. He told me if they wanted to take the kampung, 'what can I do. Even the Chief Minister cannot do anything',” related Ahmad. 

After the 2001 shutdown of Pacific Hardwood on grounds of mismanagement and lack of good timber, Ahmad said the retrenched workers were assured that they would be given priority if there were any future jobs.  

“Why were we told there was no lumber and Pacific Hardwood was making a loss, when now we see all these round logs coming to the timber complex?” he asked. 

What amuses Ahmad the most is a letter dated Oct 6 appointing him village head of Teluk Soiaun. 

“How can it be? I won’t have a kampung soon if the coal fuel plant is built,” said Ahmad.  

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