Sarawak Energy has clarified online reports that the Penans living in Baram want the proposed Baram dam to be stopped, saying that their sentiment did not reflect that of the entire Baram people.
Its chief executive Torstein Dale Sjotveit 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 Ding Anyi who told us that the sentiment reported was not reflective of the entire Baram people.”
Sjotveit, a Norwegian, also said he would be delighted if the king of Norway could come to Sarawak to see for himself what his countrymen were 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,” he said in a statement yesterday.
On Monday, the Bruno Manser Fund had released a statement saying that 600 Penans were appealing to Norway’s King Harald V to call Sjotveit home to Norway.
“If Sjotveit wishes to build hydro dams, let him do it in Norway, or wherever he is welcome. But he has no right to come from Norway to Sarawak and destroy our lives and rainforests,” the Penans said in their appeal letter, which was signed by the heads of eight villages and over 600 members of the community.
Meanwhile, the Sarawak Energy statement quoted Pahang as saying that while he understood the view of the 600 signatories, much of what they said was neither accurate nor 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,” he said.
Pahang said Sarawak Energy had not started work on the dam project in Baram, while the social economic impact assessment (SEIA) which started last October was 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.”
He added that only 6,000 to 8,000 people in 30 villages, not 20,000 people 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,” Pahang said.
In addition, Penan community leader Temeng-gong Datuk Hassan Sui was quoted in the Sara-wak Energy statement as saying that he viewed the overall development in Baram as positive.