Community Chiefs Call For Greater Understanding Through Dialogue on Baram

Kuching (Sarawak), May 14, 2013: With regard to the online media reports carried on Monday, May 13, 2013, Sarawak Energy today moved to correct the misconceptions of some members of the indigenous communities living in the Baram area of Sarawak.

Speaking about the report, Torstein Dale Sjøtveit, Chief Executive Officer, Sarawak Energy said, “As soon as we heard about the online media reports, we got in contact with the community members to see if they required an immediate engagement session to explain their reported concerns. In this instance, Sarawak Energy spoke to Temenggong Pahang Deng Anyi who told us that the sentiment reported was not reflective of the entire Baram people. As for the King, I would be delighted if he could come to Sarawak to see for himself what his countrymen are achieving: I am sure he would return to Norway being proud of our small contribution to lifting the present and future standard of living for 2.5 million people.”

Speaking about the online reports, Temenggong Pahang Deng Anyi: “While I understand the view of the 600 signatories, much of what they have said is not accurate and it is not representative of the community. I can't understand why they would bother the King of a foreign country when they could just ask Sarawak Energy to better grasp the facts. We have had a number of meetings with Sarawak Energy and the project consultants, where they have explained the process to us and taken our feedback. Sarawak Energy has not started work on the dam project in Baram.  The Social Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) which started last October and is still underway. In fact, Sarawak Energy has been very clear that they cannot proceed with any final decision until the affected communities are consulted on the findings of the SEIA and the proposed resettlement arrangements.”

“I also want to make clear that only 6,000 to 8,000 people (not 20,000 people as highlighted in the reports), in 30 villages (not 8 as highlighted in the reports) would be potentially affected by the ‘PROPOSED’ Baram dam. Of course people are concerned about their land and possible compensation, but Sarawak Energy is doing a good job in engaging with us.  Involving the King of another country in our domestic politics is just a stunt and won't change the fact that we must engage and understand.”

In addition, Temenggong Datuk Hassan Sui, a respected Penan community leader said, "I view the overall development in Baram as positive. I am not interested to refute statements made by an NGO as I feel more obligated to take on constructive action by working with my people the Penans, to educate them the benefits of development that will bring about positive socio-economic growth to the local community."

*Temenggong is a high-ranking community leader.