Long Kesseh Baram: The tussle between the villagers opposing the Baram dam and the illegal loggers who are supported by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation is heating up. Under the watchful eyes of the police from the General Operation Forces (GOF) and officers from the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), the villagers, again, removed a road barrier which was installed by the loggers to secure the site so that their workers could construct the access road to the proposed site for the Baram dam. In place of the barrier by the loggers MM Golden and SFC, the villagers have placed their own barricade and are in the process of pressuring the loggers to move their machines out.
At 4.30 pm on the Sunday 9th Nov, seventy men and women from the Baram area removed the road barriers installed by the loggers, which was guarded by the armed GOF. They were led by the villagers from Long Kesseh and Na’ah who own the land which is proposed for the Baram dam. “In removing the road barrier placed the loggers we were told by the SFC officer in charge, Mr Epoi Kirew, who was at the site, that we were breaking the law and that SFC will remove it. We told him that SFC and the MM Golden were breaking Native Adat (Native Customary Law) by encroaching into the Native Customary Land without the consent of the land owners,” said Johannes Luat, who was one of the villagers on the site. The incident was the 3rd time that the blockade by the villagers was removed by MM Golden, the first one, on 3rdof May 14, was aided by a bankrupt Baram businessman and following that, these couple of times round it is being supervised by SFC supported by the GOF. At 10 am on 10th Nov. the blockaders are still waiting for MM Golden to remove their machineries from site.
Commenting on the tussle, Peter Kallang, the chairman of SAVE Rivers said, “What the authorities are doing in constructing the access road for the proposed Baram dam, exploiting and destroying the whole environment in the process, and done without the Environmental Impact Assessment is in complete disregard for the environment, human rights and international standard. It is highhanded, inhumane and unlawful. It must stop immediately.” Thomas Jalong, the President of Orang Asal SeMalaysia who was present at the blockade site, commented, “I am really touched that the action taken by the villagers to assert and protect their rights to their customary land, territory and resources are done in a very peaceful manner. Men, women and youth took part in the operation.”