About 300 people from various native groups held a protest this morning at an international conference of hydropower industry stakeholders in Kuching, Sarawak.
This was intended to highlight the plight of indigenous peoples who are suffering the negative effects of the state’s numerous hydropower dam projects.
According to Save Rivers, a pro-native rights NGO, the protestors included people from the Penan, Kayan, Kenyah and Iban ethnic groups.
They have consistently raised issues with the construction of dams in Bengoh, Murum, Bakum, Baram and Limbang.
The 40-minute protest kicked off at 11am today at the entrance of the Borneo Convention Centre and protestors handed leaflets to participants at the conference organised by the International Hydropower Association.
The group held up banners which read: ‘Respect native rights’, ‘Stop Baram dam’ and ‘IHA stop collaborating with corrupt regime’.
At one point, IHA executive director Richard Taylor approached the group and spoke to Mark Bujang, secretary of Save Rivers.
“Indigenous communities are voicing their opposition to the dams being built on our land. We were not given a voice inside the congress so we are using our voices here in the form of a protest,” Bujang later told reporters.
‘Government doesn’t care about us’
Johannes, from Long San, Baram, said people in the vicinity are opposed to the proposed Baram dam because their ancestral land will be flooded, therefore affecting their livelihood.
“The government only thinks about how to make money with the dams but they don’t care about us. We want development but not dams,” he said.
Ngajang Midin, from Long Ayah which is affected by the Bakun Dam, said he had joined the protest because he does not want others to suffer.
“We all came to Kuching today to show IHA, Sarawak Energy and the Sarawak government that despite what they say, we disagree with the dams,” he said.
Sarawak Energy, a sponsor of the conference, is the state utility company allegedly controlled by a relative of Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.
Key stakeholders from various sectors of the industry are discussing the role of hydropower in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions at the conference which ends on Friday. – Malaysiakini