MIRI: Timber giants operating in logging concession zones in interior Baram district in northern Sarawak had a timber-blockade 'scare' over the past few days.
A group of some 150 semi-nomadic Penans from six settlements staged a human-blockade along a timber access road leading into Long Belok and Long Nen some seven hours journey from Miri City since five days ago.
The women, children, men and elderly Penans from Long Nen, Long Belok, Long Sayan, Long Kevok, Long Bayan, Ba Marong from Sungai Layun, Tutoh and Apoh camped out at the road that is used by logging operators to transport logs to sawmills.
Initially, it was thought that the Penans had started another major blockade, like the one last September when they staged three different blockades that disrupted logging operations in upper Baram for one whole month.
However, the blockade this time around turned out to be just a symbolic protest by the Penans to protest unfulfilled promises over land rights and water and electricity supply made a year ago.
Sarawak Penan Association secretary, Panai Ayet, said Tuesday the Penans were angry that their needs had been ignored since the last timber blockade a year ago.
''It was a symbolic protest. The Penans said that last September, the state government leaders had promised them that the Penans’ land rights would be recognised, that they would be given land to farm, given water and electricity supply and kindergartens for the children.
''These promises were part of a peace plan that the state government had offered the Penans in Baram to end a one-month long blockade last September that badly affected the logging operations.
''The Penans are unhappy that the promises had not been fulfilled even until today.
''The Penans are also questioning what had happened to a RM2.7 million allocation promised by the Miri Resident Office to upgrade the housing facilities for the Penans,'' he said.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia office in Marudi confirmed that the blockade was a symbolic protest and urged the state leaders to look into the grouses and resolve them.
Miri Councillor and Baram Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) youth chief Dennis Ngau, when asked on the latest protest from the Penans, said he was not informed about the matter.
''I have not heard about the protest. I will get in touch with the state assemblyman (Lihan Jok) and check with my people on the ground to find out what had happened,'' he said.
Ngau had recently formed an action group to probe the alleged rape of Penan girls and women in Ulu Baram.
His party office in Baram had last year negotiated for the peace deal with the Penans to help end the timber blockade then.