Taib Mahmud’s crazed dam-building fantasies are meeting such serious popular resistence that many are warning of meltdown, unless he shelves his monstrous plans. Affected communities are now organising determined opposition across the country.
Protests against secrecy
In the latest move, residents of the area affected by the proposed Baram Dam have demanded access to Environmental Impact Assessments and other reports before any official decisions are taken. This would be normal procedure in most other countries, but not Sarawak where Taib has illegally attempted to keep such matters a close secret.
Taib’s multi-billion dollar SCORE project to build 12 more dams has until recently been kept under wraps, even though construction of the first Murum Dam is well advanced. The scheme will destroy the homes of 600,000 people and ruin all the main rivers of Sarawak, but it would make the Mahmud family rich beyond their wildest dreams. Their government cronies too could participate in the construction bonanza financed by loans from the Chinese government, which is interested in taking control of Sarawak.
However, the Chief Minister’s record of dealing with affected local communites on past projects, in particular the notorious Bakun Dam, has shattered the trust of his people. The Sarawak State Government poured hundreds of millions of ringits of taxpayers money into the pointless construction and yet it apparently cannot find the money to deliver the minimal compensation which was promised to the rightful owners of the land.
There is one family that has prospered of course. The Taib family have made a fortune out of the construction work on the Bakun dam, which they of course awarded to themselves. However, such greed is matched only by their meaness towards the rightful owners of the land who have lost everything.
Why you should never trust Taib Mahmud
Families in Bakun, who were promised new houses and farmlands (all with free running water and electricity from the dam of course) are now facing Government demands for huge payments for the shoddy buildings they were forced into. They are being asked far more money than what they received in compensation for their original homes. In one typical case a family that was given 30,000MR for their old house are being told they must find a massive 52,000MR to pay for the new government-built accomodation! ”It is already falling down”, comments the exasperated victim of this shoddy scam. “We are completely trapped by this so-called debt to the Government”. Many of these families cannot afford to pay the bills for water and electricity they had been told would come free.
The opposition coalition parties have promised to lift this such demands if they win the next State Election.
The lessons from Bakun and elsewhere in Sarawak
Many of Bakun’s stranded exiles are also finding they cannot earn their living, despite promises of wealth and development if they signed away their land. Promised farm land is often miles from their settlements and too hard to get to. The only work is poorly-paid, back breaking labour on palm plantations owned by government cronies, who cheat their workers out of their promised share of the profits. Is this is what the native peoples deserve in return for handing over their valuable lands and timber rights?
Residents of Batang Ai and Murum face the same problems. Government promises have been worthless. While the Taibs and their friends build mansions for themselves in Sarawak and across the world the country’s Dam Exiles have suffered a huge decline in their living standards.
No wonder then that other communities are refusing to cooperate with new government plans to build more unecessary dams. Rebellion is growing and the rebels are right.