The climb down over the Baram Dam is very significant and everyone who has stood up in protest should accept credit. Others should take note that legitimate protest works!
In the face of the growing outrage at the planned destruction of one of Sarawak’s most unspoilt regions and the displacement of tens of thousands of people, even the greedy Chief Minister came to the conclusion that it would be utterly foolhardy to try to fight the upcoming federal election while trying to defend the indefensible.
Now the acquisitive old tyrant hopes that he can brush aside all questions on the subject by saying that the project is “on hold”!
But don’t be fooled
However, this is not a time to heave a sigh of relief. For Taib and his diminishing gang this is just a tactical retreat. They had realised that his reckless plans were threatening to break his control over some key seats in the area in the face of the growing strength of the opposition.
They calculate that if BN can win the next election then they will have a full five years to come back and push through their plans for SCORE. Baram will be back on the agenda in no time.
So, at every point in this election campaign Taib should be asked why the Baram Dam has not been CANCELLED instead of postponed!
All those 20,000 Kenya, Kelabit, Kayan and Penan who are threatened by that dam and their fellow tribespeople should resist being taken in. They have had proof that Taib has been fully prepared to turf them out of their homes and swamp the vast area that was their homeland (having stolen all the timber first).
The fact that the old man could even CONTEMPLATE such an act should confirm to them that he can never be trusted with their votes. Some headmen will say otherwise, of course. But Taib turned the headmen from chosen representatives of the people into his own paid appointees - now headmen are supposed to say what he tells them to say or they lose their money and position.
The people should look instead at the disaster that faced the people of Bakun, who were promised jobs, wealth, comfort and grand new lives in return for the destruction of their region.
Instead, they have been housed in the sink town refugee centre of Sungai Asap, many of them facing hopeless lives with inadequate education and medical services.
What is more, the promises of free water and electricity from the dam that took their livelihoods turned out to be false. Many of these people have been cut off, because the promised ‘jobs’ have failed to provide them with the money to pay the bills (yet SESCO, run by Taib’s cousin Hamid Sepawe, turns a blind eye to the fact that the billionaire Chief Minister has cheated on his own bills by running a by-pass cable into his house!).
The fact that Taib, through his side-kick Planning Minister Awang Tengah, has announced that he has decided to carry on with the Baleh Dam immediately instead, should make it plain to all that Taib has no intention of giving up on his dreams to make himself the richest man on earth by exploiting the natural resources of Sarawak.
The Baleh Dam will also affect thousands of people and destroy great areas and a wonderful stretch of river. It is just less electorally dangerous for PBB, so all Taib has done is switch the order in which he intends to build his 12 planned dams across all the main rivers of Sarawak.
Not one of these dams serves a single demonstrable need, since the State already had excess electricity provision BEFORE the Bakun dam was completed this year.
Taib is judge and jury of his own projects
No one who is threatened by a dam should think for one minute that Taib has really changed his increasingly feeble mind. Neither should they imagine that there is a single way to stop the old dictator for as long as he is in power.
Taib is the Chief Minister, Finance Minister and Planning Minister driving the whole SCORE project forward as he attempts to raise $66 billion dollars of investment in his schemes. He has also appointed himself Chairman of the Natural Resources and Environment Board, whose job it is to approve the Environmental Impact Assessment on his own plans!
So do we think they will get approval? Do we think that the Chief Minister will approve his own self-enriching scheme? The situation is laughable, save for being so sad.
Taib’s dream is to turn Sarawak into a money-making machine for himself. He has already taken the timber and he has turned much of the land into palm oil plantation – an area he intends to double shortly. Now he wants to turn the polluted rivers into a vast power generation scheme.
He knows that many countries need this level of power to smelt aluminium and that this process is very unpopular in most places in the world, because it is so dangerous and polluting. So he is now going round courting the big aluminium companies and inviting them to come and pollute what is left of what used to be one of the cleanest and most untouched areas on earth.
Already many people of Mukah are suffering health problems because of the first such plant, which the Chairman of the Environment Board clearly thought was suitable to be placed right near to their houses and plantation areas in his own constituency.
The rest of the people of Sarawak should look at the sufferers of aluminium poisoning in Mukah and consider the future that the Chief Minister of Sarawak has in plan for them as he walks away dripping in wealth from all the investment that will have passed through his hands.