I sense that this is a build up to the arrest of the Penans who are manning the blockade, and am extremely disappointed by the statement by district police chief (DSP) Bakar Sebau that action could be taken against those responsible, under Section 143 or 147 of the Penal Code for illegal assembly or taking part in a riot (Borneo Post, Oct 23).
The Penans are a peaceful people and if there is any riot, it would only be the result of provocation by agents of the dam-builders or the authorities. Any arrest of the Penans by the police would in my view be an abuse of the process of the law, and I am fully prepared to act for the Penans should they be arrested.
It is to be noted that (land development minister) James Masing made a statement on October 18 that the needs of both parties must be considered on the same level of importance, and that the element of force must never be allowed to surface.
Let the negotiators on the side of the dam builders take heed of his words that, “The people affected by the HEP dams cannot be seen as paying for the needs of the industry.”
As for the last part of his sentence “and vice versa”, I can only say that since the people were not consulted before the project was started and thus did not give informed and prior consent, the authorities and dam-builders are in no position to demand anything from the people.
Don’t blame NGOs
Do not add insult to injury by accusing the Penans of being made use of by NGOs. This is a typical nonsensical response by the authorities when hit with the fallout from their arrogant and underhanded conduct, and blaming someone else instead of owning up to their mistakes and making reparation. If that does not work, try the bully tactic by threatening arrest.
If the Penans have no compelling reason to erect the blockade, would they willingly suffer the hardships they have had to endure for over three weeks now? What is wrong with concerned groups showing support for their fellow citizens and lending a helping hand?
If we believe that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, we believe that whatever happens to the people of the land affects us and we must stand up for them. The land is all that the Penans have and they are entitled to defend it. Do not forget that assistant minister Liwan Lagang have reported that they have valid reasons to be unhappy.
Why is it that the government is not willing to compensate them adequately for the destruction of their lands, which are also their livelihood and their heritage?
With the billions that the government is expecting to make from the dam, we find it incomprehensible that they are having such difficulty in doing the right thing by the people who have been made to sacrifice their homes, and instead are now employing threatening and bullying tactics against them.
As I have said time and again, a change of government is what is required to stop the rot that has set in. A Pakatan Rakyat government will act quickly to prevent further destruction of the land and to ease the suffering of the people.
BARU BIAN is Adun for Ba’ Kelalan and PKR Sarawak chairperson