Sarawak Energy Empowers Murum Penans Through Literacy Programme

Murum, January 25, 2013 – Sarawak Energy, the State’s energy provider and socio-economic growth engine today talked about their efforts to reduce the educational disparity of the affected indigenous community in Murum, Sarawak. In the ‘Contemporary Ethnography’ survey conducted by the State Government’s consultants in 2009, it was identified that out of 550 education-aged Penans in the six communities affected by the Murum Hydroelectric Project (HEP), 517 were not attending school. To immediately address this, Sarawak Energy created the Murum Penan Literacy Programme, which is now providing solid literacy foundations to more than 330 Penans.

Working closely with the Society for the Advancement of Woman and the Family Sarawak (SAWF), the programme first started off catering to only the Penan women. Due to the overwhelming response received, today, the Literacy Programme caters for all interested participants in the six affected communities within the vicinity – Long Wat, Long Luar, Long Menapa, Long Singu, Long Tangau, and Long Malim. Together with SAWF, close to 50 percent of the 330 plus participants are now literate and able to read fluently and write with confidence.

“It is heartwarming to know that most of the Penans in Murum, regardless of gender or age, have a strong sense of participation in the programme. This clearly shows the initiative that they are taking in order to better their current conditions. We are extremely pleased to be able to provide them the necessary skills needed to raise their family incomes and standards of living,” said Joanne Tan, Sarawak Energy’s Manager for Social Investment.

Apart from reading and writing classes, the literacy programme also encompasses arithmetic, hygiene and healthy living, personal and leadership development and vegetable farming. “We appreciate the effort carried out by Sarawak Energy for giving our community the opportunity to learn. We hope that such activities will be continued after we have been relocated to our new home,” said Gilbert Kiring, one of the 30 facilitators trained by Sarawak Energy to conduct the literacy classes at their respective longhouse. ‘In a few months of time, the Penan people in Murum will go through a major beneficial transformation elevating their standard of living. The indigenous communities will be able to access education, enhanced accommodation, clean running water, electricity and sanitation utilities. The Murum Penan Literacy Programme is part of Sarawak Energy’s initiatives to ensure that the resettlement provides much more for the affected communities than just bricks and mortar,” added Joanne.

The Murum Penan Literacy Programme is only one of the many examples of numerous engagements and community gatherings that have been organised over recent years. The reality of the situation contrasts starkly with the baseless allegations made by radical foreign activists who falsely claim a lack of engagement and human rights violations.

Under the Sarawak Corridor Of Renewable Energy (SCORE), the government is implementing a comprehensive plan to develop the Sarawak economy by harnessing the State’s competitive advantage in the generation of bulk renewable energy to attract investment and employment in energy intensive industries. This will result directly in the people of Sarawak enjoying higher incomes and standard of living. To support the State’s SCORE agenda, Sarawak Energy is committed towards harnessing the abundant hydroelectricity resources in a sustainable manner, compliant with Sarawak and Malaysian law and guided by international best practices. Sarawak Energy’s projections indicate that by the middle of the next decade, residential, retail and commercial customers in Sarawak will require 2,000 MW while SCORE customers will consume at least 6,000 MW. The State’s GDP is expected to expand 5-fold by 2030, with approximately 1.6million jobs to be created when SCORE is fully operational.