… a perfect timing for this human rights issue to be brought to the U.N, just as Malaysia is being given a seat in the UN Security Council.
NGOs and human rights groups have roundly condemned the move to kick out indigenous peoples from the Baram dam area.
A joint statement issued by Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (Joas), Suaram and International Rivers said, “Malaysian and international human rights organizations have united to publicly condemn the attempt to intimidate Indigenous Peoples in Sarawak at the proposed Baram Dam site.
It added, “On 21 October, coercive action was taken by police from the General Operation Force (GOF), Forest Department officers and personnel representing logging interests from the company MM Golden, to pressure residents of Long Kesseh to abandon their customary lands and disperse from the site.”
This is the area where people had set up a barricade.
“As a result of the violation of rights outlined in the national constitution and provisions of the UN Declaration with regards to Indigenous Peoples, an urgent appeal was submitted on 22 October to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz,” it said.
The appeal calls on Tauli-Corpuz to raise concerns with the Government of Malaysia about the actions taken to forcefully dismantle the barricade.
The barricades had been set up a year ago by local residents of Long Kesseh to “assert landowners’ native customary rights (NCR) to land allocated against their will for the Baram Dam”.
The 1,200-megawatt Baram Hydroelectric Project was proposed by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB).
Dam will flood 26 villages
The statement added that if the dam is completed, it would inundate 26 villages, including Long Kesseh, flooding 400 sq km of land and displacing between 6,000 and 20,000 people.
In response to SEB’s efforts to begin preparatory work on the Baram Dam, residents of Long Kesseh and surrounding areas had symbolically marked their defiance by building a barricade on their own land.
Serene Lim, from the national human rights group SUARAM, explained, “Villagers in Baram are defending their customary property rights; they have not granted free, prior and informed consent for their land to be taken by the government or any private firm.
“That is why the people of Long Kesseh continue to affirm their rights to the area, and why they decided to rebuild the barricade.”
She added, “It is unacceptable that the authorities are evidently backing M.M. Golden’s incursion into native customary land, while completely disregarding clear legal provisions and precedents protecting the rights of original landholders. Given the complicity of government authorities along with agents hired by logging and energy companies in violating fundamental human rights, we decided to bring this case to the attention of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”