The proposed cascading dam projects, including in Sungai Totoh Baram, are in a preliminary state in the Sarawak government’s plans with its implementation contingent upon a comprehensive feasibility studies (sic) examining technical and commercial viability, as well as obtaining consent from local community through engagements and consultations.
Deputy Minister in the Premier of Sarawak’s Department, Gerawat Gala [said] responding to concerns and opposition raised by several quarters including Senator Abun Sui Anti, the non-profit organisation Save Rivers and affected local communities.
“Those reported to be against the building of cascading dam should not jump the gun and start campaigning against the proposal before the start of the feasibility study and the final decision-making process.
“Wait for the right information to be communicated during engagement sessions to be conducted and to express your views, concerns and suggestions at that time. Keep an open mind and be rational instead of getting agitated and emotional prematurely”, he said in a statement today (!!)
The Sarawak State Government appears by this statement to have stepped back from its over-hasty and premature announcements that no less than three so-called “Cascading Dams” were to be built along rivers in native areas, without so much as a by-your-leave to those who stand to be affected.
This is the right thing to have done in response to the predictable public outrage over the past few days as teams hired by the Land & Survey Department pitched up unannounced at kampungs in the target areas, trying to measure up so called perimeter surveys with the clear purpose of extinguishing native land rights where they plan to flood the land.
A hastily organised petition over the weekend pointed out to the authorities that there had been none of the legally required consultation and very little public information about these dams, likewise over the perimeter surveys.
Deputy Gerawat Gala now concedes that very point: according to his own words the plans are at a preliminary stage, feasibility studies have not been started nor has there been any consultation with the local communities.
So why on earth has this government been spewing out announcements over the past few weeks stating its intent to build not just one but three sets of these multiple hydroelectric dams and laying down bills to amend the state laws to push them through?
Why are teams turning up in villages to measure up their land in accordance with these premature plans?
Why did the Premier himself state the Green Light has already been given?
All this has been done on the excuse of permission having allegedly been obtained from local communities, when ‘Gigawatt’ Gala now admits it hasn’t.
So, if anyone has been ‘jumping the gun’ it is clearly the State Government which has been caught red-handed trying to steamroller through these mega-projects without proper due process or consent and alleging community consent that has not been gained.
Having been forced to back down over the false claims, it therefore behoves the Deputy to be a little more gracious in his language towards those who rightly called out these half-baked plans.
What cheek to patronise native constituents telling them to “be rational instead of getting agitated and emotional prematurely” after dams were announced for their rivers and government agents turned up in their villages to measure out the land.
And what cheek to instruct them “to wait for the right information to be communicated” when that is exactly what villagers are asking for, instead of the untrue public statements about their consent being given and the projects being “Given the Green Light”.
It is the Sarawak State Government that has been premature to act in this matter and they deserved the prompt and timely rebuttal that they got.