Who Gives A Dam About Human Rights In Sarawak?

NCR lands are “required by the Government” – by which authority?

Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud clearly thinks it is his human right to do exactly what he likes.

To question or oppose him or refuse to comply is simply an outrageous violation of his right to do as he pleases.

He has taken vast territories, destroyed the world’s most precious forests and rivers and presumably takes pleasure in having “more money than I can ever spend” from the proceeds.

However, other people’s rights, as agreed upon by the rest of the world, are ignored by him.

On August 2nd, before any impact assessments had been completed or any form of approval given for the highly controversial Baram Dam project, Taib gazetted a ‘directive’ in the Borneo Post, ordering that the State Government will take over the native lands in the area, because they are “required”.

The imperious order gives the native people just 60 days to prepare any representations against the confiscation of their lands.

Yet, the Baram Dam still has no legitimate status and since the local people were not directly told about the order and few would read the Borneo Post, many are in danger of losing their land before even the project is approved.

The NGO International Rivers has condemned the move as a direct violation of human and indigenous rights :

This is another clear sign that the Taib government has no respect for the basic rights of Sarawak’s natives. With this latest move, there is no way that Taib or Sarawak Energy can claim that the Baram Dam is following international standards. This directly violates the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It also violates the IFC Performance Standards [World Bank], the Equator Principles, and even the International Hydropower Association’s sustainability protocol. I can’t think of any international standard that this doesn’t violate.”.[Kirk Herbertson, International Rivers]

This is of course how numerous communities have been cheated of their land rights by

The illegally constructed Murum Dam is yet to find a proper role and yet Sarawak Energy is already preparing to build Baram Dam.

Taib’s state government, without access to news, legal assistance or adequate information.

The man whose minions flagrantly bribed and cheated in order to ‘win’ the Baram seat at the general election, has moved swiftly to force through yet another pointless dam in the region against the wishes of local inhabitants.

And yet his side-kick Norwegian CEO at Sarawak Energy, Torstein Sjotveit, is still posturing about going through all the proper assessment procedures to consider the viability of the project:


“Sarawak Energy keeps claiming that the Baram Dam has not been approved, and that it will not be approved until after an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is completed. Extinguishing land rights should only happen after the project is approved, and only with the free prior and informed consent of the indigenous people. The whole point of an EIA is to check whether a proposed project can be built in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Once again, Sarawak Energy has misled the affected communities”[Kirk Herbertson, International Rivers]

But, as everybody, including the multi-million ringgit a year SEB boss knows, Taib expects to get what he wants. Since he  can make lots and lots and lots of money out of the Baram Dam project, he has no intention of seeing it rejected.

According to reports the road to the region Baram has already been labelled as the access road to the ‘dam site’ with a big SEB sign carrying the SCORE logo.

Might is right?

Dancing in attendance. Sjotveit’s job is to tell the world that Taib is respecting protocols – but that would get in the way of family profits.

Taib reckons he can get away with it, because he has always got away with everything, whether he is right or wrong.  But, this time the arrogant old tyrant looks to be pushing too far and someone should tell the Emperor that he has no clothes.

After all, his government is still struggling to use up the power from the existing vast Bakun Dam, which it originally justified as a source of power for West Malaysia, until the Chief Minister had to accept the scheme was scientifically impossible.

The latest plan is to replace the rainforest with a concrete jungle of polluting smelter plants, powered by Bakun and populated by workers from India, the so-called SCORE project.

And Sarawak’s precious remaining mangroves and peat forests are to be turned into a “halal meat hub”, to rear cattle for Arab consumers whom Taib has been courting in the Middle East.

The Minister issuing the land confiscation directive is the ‘Minister of Resource Planning & Environment’ – none other than the Chief Minister and Planning Minister, Taib himself!

The idea is of course that all these barmy businesses will belong to Taib.  He is already abusing his position as Finance Minister to borrow vast sums of public money to fund this profiteering nonsense.

We have exposed, for example, how Sarawak Energy secretively issued an eye-watering RM30billion ($10 billion) bond, secured by the State of Sarawak, which the toady Chief Executive, Torstein Sjotveit, originally had the cheek to publicly deny.

We suggest that foreign companies which have been approached by the doubtless plausible Mr Sjotveit to get involved with this notorious regime should therefore seriously consider if they wish to be tainted with involvement such blatant corruption and human rights violations:

“All of Sarawak Energy’s international partners should pull out immediately or they will be implicated in human rights violations. This includes HydroTasmania, the International Hydropower Association, Sinohydro, and China Three Gorges. Sarawak Energy should also realize that, with this latest move, it will be quite difficult to enter into future business deals with any respectable multinational companies or banks. This was a short-sighted decision on their part”.[Kirk Herbertson, International Rivers]

All set to repeat the dreadful record of Bakun and Murum

It is a reminder that the Chief Minister is driving through this attempt to confiscate native lands against an appalling past record.

Faced with questions at the International Hydropower Conference held in May in Kuching, Sarawak spokesmen had to admit that things have up to now been done badly and illegally.

Protesting for their livelihoods – the Murum Penan have been offered minimum compensation in return for ‘development’

The treatment of the people driven from Bakun and still not properly compensated over a decade later is a stain on Malaysia’s international reputation.

And Sarawak Report has further exposed a similar plan to drive out the natives of the now completed and equally unnecessary and destructive Murum Dam with nothing but paltry compensation.

However, Sarawak Energy with Torstein Sjotveit at the helm are now full of claims that methods have been reformed.

At the Hydropower Conference they argued that the people of Murum are now being properly consulted and compensated, as even now they are being forcefully re-located from their villages.

Victims of Bakun – has Taib really reformed his attitude towards the native land owners whom his cousins termed “squatters”?

Yet the NGO International Rivers has been examining the true situation at Murum and it is due to issue a report warning that the Western Penan of the area are being driven out of their territories with nothing more than vague promises of future compensation – promises which the government do not have to keep because they are not legally binding.

The people of Baram should therefore take heed.

They and the people of Murum should not trust the white haired land grabber of Sarawak  and they should reject his ‘directives’.

The UN declarations on human rights have been derived from numerous treaties ratified by Malaysia and they support the human rights of the native people of Sarawak, not Taib’s personal view that he should be allowed to take what he wants.

Every notice board in every longhouse in Baram should now be posted not only with Taib’s new directive, but also the following articles from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to show them how international opinion and the law is on their side:


Article 10

Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.

Article 18

Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.

Article 26

1.Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned. 

Article 32

1.Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.

2. States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

3. States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact


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