Papar Dam decision will haunt Parti Warisan Sabah, says activists

KOTA KINABALU: The decision to proceed with the controversial Papar Dam will haunt Parti Warisan Sabah, with the state elections just around the corner, says Save Papar River Committee representative Jackly Lasimin.

He said that looking at how the authorities seem to be ignoring people’s protests against the project, adding that it will affect people's support for the political representative in Papar in a way.

“It is bewildering that the leaders and authorities are not even willing to consider alternative methods. Why spend so much for a project that will destroy lives, damage our lands and the environment, ” said Jackly.

He said that multiple protests have been made and suggestions of alternative water sources have been given by geologist and lecturer Prof Felix Tongkul, but added that all have fallen on deaf ears.

Jackly said villagers were hoping for a dialogue session with those in charge of the project, including political leaders, but their wait turned out to be in vain.

“There is also no concrete and definite clear explanation of the status of this project and details such as its exact location. We have got so much contradicting information when we ask the different authorities, ” he said.

Jackly urged caretaker chief minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal to listen to the rakyat’s plight and use the RM3bil meant for the project to develop rural parts of Sabah and build reservoirs or water treatment plants instead of the dam, which was previously known as the Kaiduan Dam.

Similarly, Diana Sipail of the Taskforce Against Kaiduan Dam (TAKAD) from Penampang, said they are disappointed with Shafie’s statement on Tuesday (Sept 1) that the Papar Dam project will proceed if Warisan wins the election.

“He is inconsistent. He gave us false hope and now we are going to suffer, ” she said.

Diana asked if a caretaker government has the right to announce any project, and if yes, who announced it and when was the project’s approval given?

“We are also getting all sorts of inconsistent information on the Papar Dam; for example someone would tell us that it is still at the proposal stage, while another would tell us that it has been downsized and relocated, ” she said.

She questioned the authorities and political leaders on their refusal to consider environmentally sustainable alternative measures that would not cost thousands of people their lives or land.

“We want our ancestral rights and land to be protected and saved, we want our human rights to be respected, ” Diana said.

Meanwhile, environmentalist Harjinder Kler said in a post on her Facebook page that the Warisan-led state government seems intent on destroying the environment by greenlighting projects that were strongly rejected.

She said these projects were the Papar Dam, the Tanjung Aru Eco Development and the Balambangan Silica mining proposal and added that they were strongly objected to and subsequently dropped during the Barisan Nasional era.

“Has the pandemic not taught us anything about protecting the environment? Do something now or lose the elections, ” she said, referring to Parti Warisan Sabah and its partners.

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