Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Support the Indigenous People's Murum Dam Blockade

Support the Indigenous People's Murum Dam Blockade


Wednesday, 31 October 2012 admin-s
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http://www.sarawakreport.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/rap2.jpg 
Dr Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 
The Penans have been blockading against the construction of the 944MW Murum Dam since Sept 26, 2012. More than 1,600 Penans from eight Penan villages (including one Kenyah Badeng longhouse) are affected by the construction of the dam which is now about 70% completed. Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), contractors and private companies involved in the project have been forced to use ferryboats or tugboats through the Bakun Dam reservoir to transport goods, machines, building materials etc. to the Murum Dam site.
This is a new and different factor compared to the campaign against the Bakun dam in previous years. While we had built a campaign against the Bakun dam in the past, there was no action by the indigenous peoples affected on a scale comparable to the Murum dam blockade. The Penan communities affected by the Murum dam have shown a commitment to defend their rights and Malaysians must give them full solidarity and support their struggle in all possible ways.
The Murum Penan communities are among the poorest in Malaysia. They have traditionally been hunter-gatherers but shifted to a more settled, agriculture-based way of life approximately 40 years ago. They rely on subsistence-based farming and hunting, fishing and gathering of forest products and the occasional sale of in-season fruit. Their livelihood has been adversely affected by low farm productivity and rapidly declining forest resources because of plantation and dam building projects.

The Bakun Dam Fiasco
The Sarawak state government with federal government support, has been carrying out highly irresponsible economic projects to the detriment of the environment, the indigenous peoples’ lives and the long-term interest of the Sarawak and Malaysian tax payers.
The 2400MW Bakun dam project has already proven to be a major fiasco not only in terms of insufficient demand for its electricity generated but a disaster for the 10,000 indigenous peoples who were displaced from their traditional ancestral land to the slum conditions of the resettlement scheme at Sg. Asap. Those who cherish their heritage and human rights would describe their fate as ETHNOCIDE if they have seen for themselves the conditions at Sg. Asap.
The total energy demand in the whole of Sarawak is only 1000MW so the government has been trying to attract the biggest energy guzzlers such as aluminium smelters which happen to be the most toxic as well. Another investment is a coal-fired power station to take up the excess energy. These environmentally polluting industries are then touted as part of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE). In fact, hydro-electric power dams and toxic aluminium smelters are all industries rejected by the developed countries. None of these countries, especially Australia, wants to have toxic industries in their own backyard. But the Sarawak State Government is willing to have these mega projects for rather dubious purposes. The desperate chase for investments to take up the excess Bakun energy AFTER the dam has been built shows a total lack of economic feasibility studies which should have been done before the dam was built. Is it surprising therefore that many SCORE contracts have been given to companies owned by members of Chief Minister Taib’s family?
As if this Bakun dam fiasco was not enough, the Sarawak state government intends to build 12 mega dams in all which will strip the state of its rainforest and displace even more indigenous communities. The Murum dam is the first of these 12 dams.  The dam construction is being supervised by China Three Gorges Corporation and built by Chinese dam builder Sinohydro. After their massive investments in the Three Gorges project, you can be sure these Chinese companies are hungry for investments in other hydropower projects in Sarawak.
With such a large development scheme, international best practice calls for a “strategic environmental and social assessment.” Such an assessment looks at the overall impact that a large development scheme can have as was done for the proposed “Greater Mekong Sub-region” energy network by the Asian Development Bank.  No such strategic economic, environmental and social assessment has been conducted for SCORE.
If the Bakun dam project is to be any guide, the Sarawak government’s energy demand forecasts appear to be based more on nothing more than wishful thinking rather than detailed feasibility studies. Malaysian taxpayers, be warned that all these mega projects will entail an onerous debt burden on the Sarawak and Malaysian public. You can be sure that there will be electricity tariff hikes after the 13th general elections.
There are many energy alternatives for Sarawak beyond large hydroelectric power projects such as small-scale hydropower, solar and other forms of renewable energy, energy efficiency measures, more efficiently run and managed power plants, among others. Above all, such environmentally friendly power projects respects the indigenous peoples’ lifestyles while efforts can put into helping them with better transport systems, marketing channels and other forms of development they may require.

Murum dam violates international standards
The Murum dam project is in violation of the international standards on indigenous rights as guaranteed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), of whichMalaysia is a signatory. The Murum dam is nearing completion but the resettlement report is still being withheld. As for the Bakun dam, all studies related to the projects have not been transparent. The affected Penan and Kenyah have stated that they have never been asked for consent as demanded by the UNDRIP. The project developer, Sarawak’s state-owned electricity generating company, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) has not provided indigenous communities with an opportunity to grant or withhold their “free, prior and informed consent” for the project as required by UNDRIP. Even in cases where there was agreement, however, it was neither FREE from coercion; the resettlement plan was not made known to the indigenous peoples PRIOR to the start of the construction, and they were not INFORMED by access to information about the project’s impacts.
The social and environmental impact assessment (SEIA) for the Murum project is seriously flawed.  International standards—including the Equator Principles and the IFC Performance Standards—universally require that the SEIA must be completed during the design phase, before the government approves the project and before construction begins. This was not the case with the Murum Dam Project. The SEIA process did not even begin until after construction on the project was already underway. The Sarawak government has not yet disclosed the Murum Dam Project’s SEIA to the public or to the affected communities.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Demands
Without transparent access to the crucial information at the centre of this project, the affected communities were placed in an unfair situation when the Sarawak government asked them to negotiate a resettlement package. The monthly allowance to be paid after resettlement falls below the poverty level and ends after four years. However, the state government turned down the other demands of the Penan, which included compensation of RM500,000 for each family for the loss of their customary land. Their other demands were 30,000 hectares of land for every village, 25 hectares for every farming family, education for their children, a community development fund and rights to their land that is not submerged by the dam waters. The indigenous communities affected by the Murum Dam project have already issued a memorandum describing how the government could still remedy the situation.

Support the Murum indigenous peoples now!
Sign the Murum Appeal at http://www.sarawakreport.org/murum-appeal or at saveriversnet@gmail.com . You can support their blockade by donating to their cause at these two websites.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Najib’s downfall

Najib’s Achilles heel and poison arrow

Mohd Ariff Sabri Aziz | October 31, 2012
Every Umno leader knows that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad blames Rosmah Mansor for the position Umno and Najib Razak find themselves in today.
COMMENT
It’s none of our concern if Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s attacks on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak are tactical or real. What we know is that they are all masters and practitioners of subterfuge and deception.
I suspect the Umno camp is really worried about the attacks on their man that they have to do a spin on the whole works.
That’s Umno thinking for you. When something is not working for them, they will manufacture a preferred storyline.
Hence the story line they come out with is that Mahathir is doing his usual reverse psychology.
Every Umno leader knows that Mahathir blames Rosmah Mansor for the position Umno finds itself today.
Rosmah is the heel to Najib’s Achilles. Mahathir is the poison arrow.
Mahathir never ceases to bully Malays into believing they are inadequate and therefore the solution is to entrust their future in the hands of good people like him.
Social evils, intoned Mahathir, arise from the activities of evil people and if only known devils like him and the band of marauders and plunderers are in control, Malaysia is safe.
What is wrong with this kind of thinking? Well, it only requires one to be unthinking and self-praising.
Mahathir likes to self-praise although he has a round-about way of doing it. The medical doctor uses self-deprecation to disarm and defeat opponents.
Malay disengagement scares Mahathir
So what’s really bothering Mahathir?
Mahathir’s biggest fear is that the process of Malay disengagement has spread so widely that it is threatening Umno’s stranglehold on the people.
Let look at the situation before us and perhaps help Mahathir make peace with himself.
First, Malaysians have acquired a new tradition of embracing democratic values and the sense of importance and self-worth.
These are natural outcomes of economic and social advancements with our own borders and also arise as a result of an almost complete removal of artificial physical barriers between nations.
Advances in the internet have demolished almost all barriers set up by autocratic government and has allowed people to learn and make comparisons.
Governments established by using autocratic means are finding themselves under increasing assaults from civil rights groups and people.
And that is happening to Umno and BN who have thrived on unchallenged autocracy.
Malaysians have acquired new values and traditions- that of liberty and liberal values.
The second force checking Umno’s hegemony and autocracy is simply its own success.
Mindless Umno leaders
Umno is a victim of its own success.
Once Umno and BN acquired a false sense of invincibility, they become victims to the baneful influence of corruption and power abuses.
Umno and BN have become a corrupt government.
The government endorses, incubates, nurture and encourage rampant and rapacious corruption buoyed by its believe in its own invincibility.
The desire to stop a corrupt government has become both a unifying and motivating force for Malaysians.
So Mahathir harangues the public with simplistic takes.
If Umno is vanquished, Malays will be finished. So, Malays need to continue to place their future in the hand of good people like Umno people.
Associating Umno with all the goodness is easy to do. It needs only an appeal to the emotions.
And that is what Mahathir and the menagerie of Umno political animals do.
To reason with people requires overcoming prejudices and subordinating the emotions.
That would require analysis and a thought process. And that is something that Umno people and its cyber troopers sorely lack.
The writer is a former Umno state assemblyman but has now joined DAP. He is a FMT columnist.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Umno’s chief crony

Umno’s chief crony

Mohd Ariff Sabri Aziz | October 28, 2012
This wealthy Malay became a billionaire because he worked hard to become a super-crony of Mahathir and Muhyiddin.
COMMENT
Umno is finding itself increasingly isolated despite having three million members. But then the Malay population in country is far more than Umno’s three million members.
In 2008, the Malay population was 5.7 million. Umno’s candidates only garnered two million Malay votes.
This means than one million of Umno’s own members did not support the party because they realised that the policies touted by Umno were destroying the country.
Umno only managed to gather 35% of the Malay votes. In 2008 total voter turnout was 10.9 million. Malays formed 52% of the voters.
In the 13th general election, the voter turnout is expected to be 11.58 million. Malay voter turnout is expected to increase to 55% or 6.37 millions.
Umno is expected to garner only 2.4 million votes this time round.
This time the party, whose president Najib Tun Razak, accursed its people, will have to seek the support of the Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Vietnamese, Myanmarees and the Indonesians to win.
This fact is a clear act of treason. The right to vote belongs exclusively to Malaysian citizens.
Isn’t it curse when immigrants are given citizenships? Why has this happened to Umno which has long since been slogeneering about Malay struggle?
The answer is because the Malays have realised that since 1988, Umno’s struggle has been for totalitarian power.
Umno’s chief crony
This totalitarian power enabled Umno leaders and their cronies to plunder the country’s wealth. Don’t believe me?
The chief Umno crony, Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary – a good friend of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin – today owns and controls a litany of companies including MMC, DRB Hicom, Proton, Malakoff,  Johor Port,  Senai Airport, Port of Tanjong Pelepas, Bank Muamalat, Padiberas Nasional, CSR Sugar, Gardenia, MPH Bookstores and  Penang Port
This same man is now eyeing RTM, KTMB and Bank Islam.
This wealthy Malay became a billionaire because he worked hard to become a super-crony of Mahathir and Muhyiddin. Almost all his wealth was handed to him on a gold plate.
This is the kind of people who support Umno. The ordinary member, he’s just good for the crowd and to scream ‘Hidup Melayu”.
We Malays keep quiet because Bukhary is a fellow Malay.
This is the attitude that is touted by the very government that is prepared to go to any length to retain its totalitarian hold on the country.
But the Malays have wisened up. In the 13th general election, the Malays will show themselves.
The writer is a former Umno state assemblyman but has now joined DAP. He is a FMT columnist.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Utusan report a ‘complete lie’, say clergymen

Utusan report a ‘complete lie’, say clergymen

UPDATED @ 03:56:43 PM 08-10-2012
October 08, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 — Two senior Christian leaders denied today they had attacked Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng for using the church for politics as reported by a Malay paper yesterday, saying their quotes had been taken complete out of context.
Mingguan Malaysia, the weekend edition of Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia, had quoted former Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) president Reverend Thomas Philips and Lutheran Evangelical Church Bishop Solomon Rajah as saying the church is no place for politics in a news article criticising Lim.
“It’s a complete lie,” Thomas, a priest of the Mar Thoma Church, told reporters today.
Mingguan Malaysiahad claimed Lim(picture) delivered a political speech at a church to garner votes for the upcoming elections. 
The news report had also quoted Solomon and Thomas as allegedly criticising Lim for using churches as a place to win votes.
Thomas, a former vice-president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST), said today that a female reporter had called him last week to talk generally about politics in the church.
“My response was it is very hard to define what is politics. All religions teach us to fight against injustice, corruption, abuse of power... and all these things. 
“For some people, these are political values. For some, these are religious values and that’s why the church continues to uphold these values,” he told The Malaysian Insider when contacted.
Thomas said he received many calls yesterday from people asking him about his remarks, and that he was shocked by how the story had been written.
Solomon said he thought Utusan Malaysia was doing a survey about church leaders’ opinions on politics and the church.
“I merely gave a general view on the subject. I said the church should not be dragged into politics.
“During the interview never for once did I condemn or speak ill of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng,” he said.
In a statement, the CCM urged Utusan Malaysia “to make an apology to both Bishop Dr Solomon and Rev Dr Thomas Philips for misrepresenting their views.”
“This apology should appear in print in their newspaper as soon as possible. The Council of Churches views with great concern the way certain media are seeking to draw the church into partisan politics,” said Reverend Hermen Shastri, the general-secretary of CCM.
Penang church pastors also yesterday refuted allegations that Lim had engaged them in political talk during the recent dialogue session, the latest black mark against the Umno daily in its reporting of the state chief minister.
The DAP secretary-general has been under fire by Umno leaders and Utusan Malaysia columnist Awang Selamat for allegedly telling Christians to stand up to injustice.
“There were no political speeches made during that luncheon dialogue session between the state government and us,” the national co-ordinator of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, Pastor Sam Surendran, told a press conference yesterday.
“I was present at the lunch dialogue session and all the pastors here also attended the session and we are refuting any claims that the chief minister had delivered any politicial speeches on that day,” he said.
The dialogue session was held on Friday afternoon between the state government and the pastors of Penang churches to discuss any issues the churches had.

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