The Story Sarawak’s Journalists Didn’t Get Hits Europe

Deforestation in Malaysia, Le Monde feature covers the Murum Dam conflict
Deforestation in Malaysia, Le Monde feature covers the Murum Dam conflict

The story that the Sarawak’s Journalist Association did not get when they were taken on their Sarawak Energy (SEB) sponsored tour of Murum is appearing prominently in European papers this weekend.

France’s top Paper, Le Monde features the Murum native blockade (which the Sarawak journalists called abandoned) in a long article about the destruction caused by Taib’s mega-dam projects.

Meanwhile, Norway’s weekly paper Ny Tid has separately focused on the protests against the Oslo based CEO Torstein Sjotveit.

Ny Tid reported on the allegations that their own national has been complicit in the corruption surrounding Sarawak’s mega-dam projects and handing of hundreds of millions in contracts to Taib’s family companies and that the matter has now been passed to the crime agency Okokrim.

None of this has been allowed to surface in Sarawak’s own restricted press and the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund has issued a press release quoting Sjotveit’s comment in Ny Tid, “I am taking no stance on corruption in Malaysia”.

The NGO asks:

“How can Mr. Sjøtveit say he is not taking a stance on corruption in Malaysia if he is working for a Chief Minister who is currently under investigation? We challenge Mr. Sjøtveit to publicly clarify if he is working for an honest government or for a corrupt government.”[Lukas Strauman, Director of BMF] “


Norway's paper cover's the concerns about SEB chief Torstein Dale Sjotveit
Norway’s paper cover’s the concerns about SEB chief Torstein Dale Sjotveit


Le Monde did the story that Sarawak’s journalists ignored

The row surrounding the public relations trip, organised by SEB for members of the Sarawak Journalist Association to the Murum Dam Site last month, has raged over the weekend, after the journalists released a statement calling criticism of their one-sided reporting “gutter journalism“.

At the (still unfinished dam face) the journalists' trip courtesy of SEB
At the (still unfinished dam face) – the 24 journalists escorted to Murum courtesy of SEB

Some had reported at length from the three days of ‘workshops’ organised by SEB, without mentioning the protests of those Kenyah and Penan people, who are refusing to be moved to resettlement sites without proper compensation or any of the environmental concerns of NGOs. The on-going Penan blockade was also left unmentioned.

The Taib family owned newspaper Sarawak Tribune (Edited by Taib’s own daughter, Hanifah) even issued a crawling article entitled “Journalists Associations Praise SEB“.

The article, which has set Kuching laughing, can only be described as a one-sided propaganda job for their state-funded hosts and it has been noted that SEB offered a ‘prize’ for the journalist who produced the ‘best story’, according to the judgement of the company:

“Sulok Tawie, President of the Kuching Division Journalists Association (KDJA) lauded the top management personnel of SEB, including its Chief Executive Officer, Datuk Torstein Dale Sjotviet for understanding the role played by the media in getting correct and accurate information from the right sources.”[Sarawak Tribune]

Sarawak Tribune - In fact the journalists had nothing to say about Tegulang, because the Penan refused to speak to the SEB escorted journalists!  And Sulok should remember to also thank Sarawak's taxpayers, who really funded the trip.
Sarawak Tribune – In fact the journalists had nothing to say about Tegulang, because the Penan refused to speak to the SEB escorted journalists! Perhaps, Sulok should remember to also thank Sarawak’s taxpayers, who really funded the trip.


After the one-sided nature of the coverage was challenged, the association issued a statement complaining that Sarawak Report had indulged in “gutter journalism” for pointing out that they had failed to mention the protesting indigenous tribes, many of whom were arrested by riot police on Thursday (the day of the complaint):

“DJA and CJA stressed that it was not their concern where the Penans set up their blockades… “In the first place, it was not even the aim of the trip to the meet the Penans at the blockade sites,” they [Sarawak Journalist Association] said.”[Bernama]

Now it has emerged from Facebook entries that the journalists were taken to one of the forced resettlement sites, Tegulang, but the natives refused to speak to them!

Head of the Sarawak Journalists Association talks to NGOs about the event - why did the journalists not get the message that Penan do not trust people brought by SEB?
Head of the Sarawak Journalists Association talks to NGOs about the event – why did the journalists not get the message that Penan do not trust people brought by SEB?

It is now also known that the SEB journalists’ trip was personally driven through with “determination” by CEO Torstein Sjotveit, according to the Sarawak Tribune article. SEB even issued ‘certificates of participation’ to the attending journalists!

Fortunately foreign journalists were also in the area and managed to interview the people that the Sarawak journalists “didn’t see” and also the resettled communities who “did not talk” to the local journalists, who were surrounded by SEB minders and armed police.

Le Monde Report

Sarawak Report can now provide a google translation of this week end’s article in Le Monde covering the conflict. [In the Malaysian rainforest a village is resisting – by Remi Barroux]

Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 06.10.03

Lost in the Malaysian forest, a village is resisting . We are on the island of Borneo, in the state of Sarawak. This village is called Long Singu . Here, 200 to 300 Penan refuse to leave their land and make way for the hydroelectric dam Murum . ” We want to keep our village and our forest,” proclaim young and old .

A desperate struggle . Because the site is in full swing , and the dam almost completed . When you take the road and the track, which connects the city of Miri , north of the state, Long Singu ? eight-hour trip in the rainforest ? , progress is made ​​hazardous by the continuous flow of trucks carrying tree 15-20 m and construction equipment trunks. Suddenly , placed on the ground, in the midst of lush vegetation, a tray. The boat was placed there because it will take the equipment palm plantations and forestry, when the waters overflow the valley. The evidence here, soon all will be gone.

Photos taken from Le Monde
Photos taken from Le Monde


On the road to Long Singu must pass many tests , give the vehicle registration , leave an ID officers stationed behind the barriers set up by the Malaysian company Shin Yang, whose red initials adorn the sides of trucks carrying workers. At the end of the journey , we finally discovered , hidden by trees , the longhouse , a wooden house on stilts , all in length , where each family is a “door” and two or three pieces. This evening of October 1 , many Penan left block Murum dam . Several hours of track . Women, children and some men remained . The Tiger , the local beer flowed freely , it makes them say laughing that much of beasts in the forest.

Night has now fallen and the sounds of animals invade the house humming , yelps , grunts and hoots correspond. During dinner ? rice, a soup of wild pig legs and forest fruits ? few Penan are discussed in the ” manse ” that hosts the rare visitors. “Tell the world what you do to the Penan . I ‘m Karang Bo , I was born here and I do not want to leave, said a septuagenarian . We live in the forest and all our food comes from it . Animals flee , birds, pigs, monkeys, and found fewer fish in polluted rivers. ”

The Penan refuse “progress” promised by the government . ” We want to grow but not that we decide in our place ,” insists Minah Siap young woman of 25 , squeezing it against her three children. In humid tropical night rain, the dim lamps powered by a generator, Robert Beatle , a guy 35 years tattooed wrists to the neck, is furious . “The dam is killing us , we’ll blow it up with explosives ! ”

Le Monde
Le Monde


The Penan are at war but his spears and blowguns weigh slightly against economic interests . The excavators have done their work , taking the forest. And the worst is yet to come with the filling of the reservoir began in late September and is expected to take one year. Flooded valleys , thousands of acres submerged and displaced villages. Third of its kind after those of Batang Ai and Bakun Dam Murum is built by Sarawak Energy Berhad ( SEB ) and is expected to produce 944 megawatts ( MW) , the equivalent of a French nuclear reactor. It is part of a large hydroelectric project that by 2030 , should enable the production of about 20 000 MW with the construction of eleven additional dams in the State of Sarawak.

“On the Baram River , three dams have been announced, but the construction of Baram 1 is already prevented by the Kenyah , Kayan and Penan said Peter Kallang , engineer of 63 years , a native of Baram , who runs Save Rivers , the NGOs displaced populations. The only dam affects 20,000 people , 26 villages. ” Actions blocking access to the site , with hundreds of people , began in late October.

The company Sarawak Energy Berhad , she denounced the ” numerous false information ” regarding the Plan of Action on population transfer . “Enough is enough, impatient general manager of SEB , Datuk Torstein Dale Sjotveit . The 2.5 million people covered by the program want development , better infrastructure and medical facilities, and a world-class teaching . Why should the people of Sarawak and indigenous communities Murum be deprived of the benefits enjoyed by citizens of most developed nations? ”

SEB and the government also put forward the development of renewable energy : dams fall under the Score program , Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy. The electricity produced is attracting huge number of industries including steel . What worries Peter Kallang . “Originally , the government wanted to deliver this electricity through a submarine cable to the Peninsula and export some to Singapore and Thailand, he said. But the project was abandoned in 1998 : too expensive. The overproduction will serve as surindustrialiser the region. ”

Le Monde
Le Monde


Approaching the site Murum , under surveillance , construction equipment on top of the impressive work , high 140 m can be seen. Yet it is the little brother of the Bakun dam , a giant 205 m high and 750 m long with eight turbines of 300 MW , which retained occupies an area equal to that of Singapore. In Bakun , fifteen villages and 10,000 people were displaced.

A few kilometers downstream of the dam Murum , four Penan villages ? Long Menapa , Luah Long , Long Singu and Long Tangau ? and the Kenyah of Long Malim have since September 17 , pitched their tents at the edge of a stagnant pond. They prevent the passage of trucks under police debonair look . ” This is the third time we have , after a crash in September 2011 and August 2013, but this time we will not leave until the government does not pay what we doitet not agree to let us access to the forest , “says Kilau milk . Portable screwed to the ear, the young 33 year old man improvised spokesman . It should , he claims , compensation for the loss of homes : “The state had promised 50,000 ringgit per family, and he has paid only 10,000 . ”

His friend Lugan Usang was sent on a mission to Miri , 500 km from Long Singu , to hold a press conference. It is one of the five delegates of the villagers. Its predecessor was dismissed by the population. Because he had recommended to stop the action ? Peter Kallang said: ” The government chooses community leaders , and pays the check. The Prime Minister of Sarawak and his family control everything. They have interests in palm oil , timber , electricity . People are afraid and do not know their rights. ”

Le Monde
Le Monde


Unimpressed by the big city of Miri and its 300,000 inhabitants , Lugan , 23, says he is ready , he to go to earn a better living . Paid a pittance in palm plantations Shin Yang, said he does not deny modernity, while wanting to maintain his lifestyle . “I want my children to go to school, but they can go , like me, in the village, hunt, fish, grow rice , fruit picking in the forest. ”

Until the 1960s, the Penan were nomadic . This nomadism prohibited from claiming land promised by the State argues Theivanai Amarthalingam , lawyer for the organization Sahabat Alam Malaysia ( Friends of the Earth Malaysia ), based in Kuala Lumpur. “We had to prove that in 1958 , we lived in a land occupied by his family for several generations impossible for the Penan , she advance. There are many challenges in the courts on expropriation of land or redemptions due to dams and oil palm plantations . ” The legal battle is fierce between the large companies, the state and the natives.

But Kuala Lumpur does not care Penan so far and few. On October 2 , a solidarity demonstration brought together dozens of people. Discreet support . ” The Penan are isolated , their cause is not known , because the media does not talk about , says Harrison Ngan Laing lawyer ” native ” in Miri . Sometimes we win the trial, but the Penan are unaware of their rights. We will do everything to get them more compensation. ”

Surrounded by palm trees and dipterocarp tree king of the forest of Sarawak, Minah Siap , the young mother does not want to move to Long Singu . “They give us a house, a piece of land , so we want to keep our forest ,” she insists .

Says it all.....

Says it all…..



Your views are valuable to us, but Sarawak Report kindly requests that comments be deposited in suitable language and do not support racism or violence or we will be forced to withdraw them from the site.


Scroll to Top