Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Natives protesting proposed Baram Dam erect blockades, chase out workers

Villagers manning a blockade on the road leading to Long Kesseh.
Villagers manning a blockade on the road leading to Long Kesseh.
MIRI: The protests in Ulu Baram in central Sarawak staged by the natives from more than 20 longhouses against the proposed Baram Dam project has heated up, with Telang Usan state assemblyman Dennis Ngau describing the controversies there as having reached "serious levels".
Ngau, who is Baram BN Youth chief, told The Star Saturday that latest information indicated that protestors have chased out workers carrying out rock-testing and drillings at the proposed dam site at Long Kesseh, and erected several blockades on the road leading into the site.
He expressed worry at the recent situation at the site of the dam.
"I wanted to go into Ulu Baram to meet the protestors at the site, but I have been warned not to enter the area yet.
"The situation there is at serious levels. The protestors are very aggressive. They are chasing out all the workers there.
"I was told that the protestors have torn down the workers' camps, the temporary office and also disrupted works at the site in Long Kesseh. "They have also dismantled some equipment at the site.
"At this stage, it is not safe for me or any government officials to enter the area as yet. I leave it to the relevant enforcement authorities to take the necessary actions," he said.
The Baram Dam project that has been approved by the state government is located between Long Naah and Long Kesseh, some 200km inland from Miri.
Ngau said Sarawak Energy Bhd workers are carrying out drilling and rock-testing in Long Naah and Long Kesseh to check the stability of the site where the main 174m-high dam wall will be built.
Environmental group Save Sarawak Rivers's chairman Peter Kallang told The Star that protestors came from more than 20 longhouses.
"The protests started on Oct 23 and then built up momentum, with more villages coming and taking part in the protests and manning the blockades day and night.
"About 30 workers who were carrying out drilling and testing on the rock surface there were chased out.
"The protestors also chased out several dozen Land and Survey Department officials who were at the site carrying out surveys for the dam project.
"There is a series of simultaneous protests and blockades along strategic points and work on the dam site had been halted," he said.
Ngau said that he spoke Baram MP Anyi Ngau, and they were planning to enter ulu Baram to try to sort out the situation before things got worse.
"I don't know how long the protests will last, but I don't want the situation to get worse or (escalate) into physical confrontation because that would not benefit anyone," he said.

BY STEPHEN THEN, The Star Online

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