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Baram Dam in My View and that of Lihan Jok

From: Burak Sem | February 10, 2011

I have been thinking hard the past couple of days if I should write about this, to share with you on my thoughts about the proposal Baram Dam by the Sarawak Government.

You might think that I am not qualified to speak about environmental issues just because I have not been to a certain school or so, but I can tell you something for nothing there are some things in life one can not learn in school, and what I am speaking about is simple logic.
I know where I come from and I know where I am going, what frightens me most of all is the people who will be occupying planet earth in time to come when you and I no more - dead and totally forgotten.

My take on dams blocking the Baram River is summed up in this sentence - Baram River and its tributaries to the Orang Ulu as veins and blood vessels are to the human body. Blocking the path way and holding back huge quantities of water or blood where it should not be held is a certain recipe for disaster. The Orang Ulus a racial group will be just history.

As the times change we have to change with it, we have the technologies our fore-fathers only dreamed of in time gone by, the time has now come to where our responsibility is to fine tune and adjust our mental attitude and understanding towards the real task that lay before us, for if earth is really heaven the planets and moons that surround us in space can be called hell.
After a long and hard reflection, I have decided to put my thoughts on the proposed Baram Dam in writing. 

I may not be qualified academically or technically to give an appraisal on this proposal by the Sarawak State Government; however, as an Orang Ulu, I am well aware of the consequence of such a project on the immediate environment and the people of the Baram. I also foresee the long term repercussions which will affect the entire future of the region and the affected habitants. The deprivation resulting from this ravenous act will be felt and inherited by generations to come, long after those irresponsible offenders are dead and gone. The Baram River and the whole of the Baram District is so much a part of the Orang Ulu people and so to intervene by damming and drowning the Baram is like choking the Orang Ulu community, the ethnic people of the area. The blatant greed which motivates the destruction by damming it will mortally destroy the environment and the social structure of the people.

The Orang Ulu communities are not spared from universal change brought about by modern technologies and knowhow. Indeed the communities have to move on in tandem with advancement. At the same time the noble values which are ours as handed to us by our forefathers must never be discarded. These good values should instead by made relevant to the phase and outlook of the modern culture and our Christian faith. 

On the 10th September 2010, Borneo Post published an article, occupying almost a quarter page of the broad sheet, titled, “Lihan insists Baram Dam a gift for Orang Ulu”. In the article Lihan Jok, the Member of State Legislative Council (ADUN) for Telang Usan, was quoted as saying, “I am not ashamed to say that the mega project is a gift from God because as a result of the project the government will build a 60-km road from Long Lama to the dam site at Long Keseh, benefitting about 12,000 Kayans from nine longhouses along the river,”. However, at an interview on 31st Jan 2011, by “Radio Free Sarawak” -, when asked to elaborate on his comment, Lihan’s respond was rather elusive. Besides, from the way he answered the radio interviewer, it was possible that he wasn’t aware that the conversation was broadcasted or recorded.

Nonetheless, in my view Lihan’s interview with the radio gave one true picture of what is now happening to the whole  Baram Dam issue. It is mysterious. It is a game of cat and mouse, there is no openness or transparency in the dealings. In fact the first time I heard about the proposed 12 dams was an article on the Bruno Manser Foundation Website, following all the hurly burly following the construction of the Bakun dam.  Even those who will bear the brunt of it are not well informed about the proposed Baram dam if they are informed at all. Even at the present moment, perhaps the only place where it most is mentioned or debated about is in cyberspace. What little which is known or publicized about these dams is mostly found on blogs and emails by concerned individuals who themselves may not at all be the stakeholders.

In an issue of this gargantuan proportion, a normal government would first of all make sure that all the thorough studies are not only carried out but seen to be carried out. All results of such studies would thus be made available to the public especially those who are affected. Studies like the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), Social Impact Assessments, Due Diligence etc.  Public debates on the issue would then be encouraged and publicized. All comments would thus be valued and evaluated before any decision is made. All relevant issues raised and woes would therefore be appropriately addressed so that in the process of implementation and maintenance the project would use the best means in achieving a beneficial goal. The goal alone must not justify the means. Each statements made by authorities would be qualified with facts which are objective or based on proven and professional evaluation. But as can be seen with what is transpiring at the moment this particular government and their “leaders” does not believe in all the aforementioned. Forget about the “People First action now” rhetoric, it is just that and nothing more.

If we take Lihan’s statement in Borneo Post at face value to be facts, that there are “12,000 Kayans from nine longhouses along the river from Long Lama to Long Keseh” who will benefit from the road built to the dam site.” Yes there is no doubt that it sounds so attractive, indeed Lihan Jok’s prayer has been answered. (He said that he has been praying for trunk roads to be built to each village in Telang Usan.) Where there is no road, there will be roads. So these 12,000 Kayans will have roads. In the same Borneo Post article, Lihan claimed that this is “bigger picture” that critics must look at. But, looking at the “bigger picture” that Lihan invited us to focus on, I see a completely different scenario looming and that is one where the other Kayan, Penan and mostly Kenyah who are living in more than ten longhouses above Long Keseh. With the construction of the dam their longhouses or dwellings will be submerged or inundated.. So with this I would like to ask, about their fate brought about by the so called God given dam? Are they included in Liha’s prayer too? Did he pray for them to be totally eliminated with all they have and all they stand for? The resulting destruction and annihilation brought about by the flood from the dam is irrevocable and massive. Why all because Lihan his friends pray for roads to be constructed for 12,000 Kayan who live in longhouses below Long Keseh.

Once the dam is built, all the crops, fruit trees, graves, life stocks, longhouses, farm houses and land belonging to these group of Kayan, Penan & mostly Kenyah will vanish under a big, big lake which will reach Lio Mato, the furthers Kenyah longhouse in Baram. So all the talks about developments and projects for these villages will then be no more an issue for the government. All issues will disappear in the deep-deep blue water of the dam because of Lihan’s answered prayer. All the existing schools, churches, chapels clinics and places historical significance to the Orang Ulu will be wiped out. The heritage of our forefathers and the pride of our Orang Ulu like those from Dato Temagong Oyong Lawai Jau, Penghulu Tama Bulan Lian, Penghulu Jok Ngau, Penghulu Kebing, Penghulu Nyipa will be just fairy tails for our posterities.  For not only will our heritage be destroyed the very remains of these great leaders of the past will be drown in the depth of the Baram Dam. The remains of all our forefathers whose cemetery we revere in the memories will also disappear. For those who keep the All Souls day as a day for remembering their deceased loved ones, they will not be able to visit their cemetery any more. There will be no need for quarrel or survey of Native Customary Right land any more, it will not be relevant. Even all the animals, insects, vegetations, flora & fauna will be no more. GONE!!! So what Noah was able to save with his ark during the Biblical flood, Lihan managed to eliminate with his pious prayer for road to benefit 12,000 Kayah living below Long Keseh.

Nagasaki and Hiroshima were destroyed by the atomic bomb during World War 2, but after the war the Japanese stood up from the ruins and pick up the pieces to rebuild the two cities. Now a day these cities are thriving once more and with a lesson well learned by the Japanese population. However, once the Baram Dam is constructed, the whole are will be deleted from the surface and there will not be any pieces to be gathered any more to rebuild the Baram.

Those who live above Long Keseh,  well Lihan does not see the need for road there. Thanks to Prophet Lihan Jok!!!!
As for Lihan himself he has no problem at all since his longhouse is at Long Bedian which is down river at the tributary of the Baram. (But then at second thought, does he have a house in Long Bedian?) He is now living in a big mansion in Miri and at least one in Kuching. So this is the type of ADUN we want, a person who only prays for those in his constituency.  Alleluia!!!
Before Sarawak Government can put together an environmental plan, which they claimed can be used to benefit Sarawak they (BN) must understand the type of people that they are dealing with, who are they, what do they believe in, how do they live, where do they live, what do they want, what do they need, etc.
YB Lihan Jok, some food-for-thoughts for you to bring home and reflect---for becoming elected YB, whether you like it or not --- is similar to when playing a game of Chess one first needs to understand the rules of the game, how the board is set up, what pieces you have and how they are able to move around the board.
The game of chess we must be able to have a strategy, a plan on what type of move or moves we want to make, watch the type of move our opponent make or is making, then try to anticipate ahead of time on what move he or she could make or is planning to make, then decide for our own self on how to counter attack and prevent our own people from getting into a situation that one does not want to be in. “Prophet” Lihan Jok should learn from this game of chess, if he cares.
Bothers and Sisters, may I ask on your favor, if there's anyone one of us in this email  could help me  translating the above to Bahasa Malaysia, Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Penan, Iban, etc,  for distribution before catastrophe incur.    

In my next article, I will do my best to share with you the irrelevance of these dams. 

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