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Monday, July 19, 2010

SABAH DAM PROTESTS ERUPT AGAIN WITH BLOCKADE



By: JOE FERNANDEZ

SEVERAL hundred villagers from the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu and several NGOs joined forces yesterday to protest anew against the proposed RM2.8 billion Kaiduan dam in their valley.

They have erected blockades and a giant crucifix to make their stand clear as to the dam project planned for their area.

The NGOs include Green Surf, the green energy alliance of five NGOs in Sabah, and Partners of Community Organisations (Pacos).

The villagers put together large tree trunks to block the stretch of road approaching the proposed dam site in Mondoringan, Kaiduan, the spot where the planners have ear-marked for the walls of the dam.

They also conducted group prayers for the cleansing of their native land and for the scrapping of the controversial project.

They erected the six-feet high cross after the prayers to mark the site of the blockade.

“We want to show the authorities concerned that we are unanimously resolved – satu hati (of one mind) against the proposed Kaiduan dam,” said Anti-Kaiduan Dam Action Committee chairperson, Nousi Giun, on the sidelines of the dam protest.

“We want to send a message that we will stop this project no matter what the cost.”

He described the project as one that would harm the environment and flood their ancestral land.

The latest protests were triggered after outsiders from a company in Selangor were reportedly discovered last month in Kampung Timpayasa in the midst of retrieving soil and rock samples at the dam site.

“We strongly prohibit anyone taking soil samples in our villages,” said Nousi. “Those who came did not even ask for permission before encroaching into our land. This is illegal.”

According to Nousi, the staff of the firm admitted that they have been retrieving soil samples from the area for the last six months.

When questioned by some villagers, however, they could not produce any authorisation letter from the state government.

They also refused to disclose who in their company directed them to enter the site.

The villagers have since launched a police report against the Selangor firm. To their dismay, the police told them that they could not do anything to help them because “they had their orders”.

The villagers also lodged a protest at the Penampang District Office.

The villagers were informed that the firm which has been commissioned as a sub-contractor and has arranged to remain in the Kaiduan area for another six months.

The main contractor, they were told, is a company that claims that they have been commissioned to build the dam. A base camp has already been set up.

Nousi said the villagers want the base camp dismantled and for the company workers to leave the area immediately.

He did not say what the villagers would do if the company workers refused to leave the area.

Outsiders, meanwhile, would not be allowed to collect any more soil and rock samples in the Kaiduan area, vowed Nousi.

This is the second encroachment into the Kaiduan valley by outsiders, say the villagers.

A company had earlier claimed it had permission to log in the dam site, ostensibly to make way for rubber and oil palm planting.

After being confronted by the villagers, the illegal loggers fled the area and have not been seen since.

Nousi claimed that more than 1,000 people in at least five Kaiduan villages - Terian, Buayan, Tiku, Timpayasa and Babagon Laut, would be affected if the dam project goes ahead.

Apparently, they have been told that they would be relocated either to Tawau on the east coast or Sook in the interior.

Nousi, however, has ruled this out and stressed that they will not leave their ancestral villages.

The villagers would also not consider re-location sites even near their present kampungs which are virtually in the backyard of KK.

Nousi and other activists have since formed a Task Force Against Kaiduan Dam to lobby for support from political parties and the general public.

The Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), the latest organisation to receive the Task Force's memorandum on the matter, has voiced its fears concerning the proposed dam.

The state government, said Sapp president Yong Teck Lee (left), would use the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report to go ahead with the project.

The EIA, he said further, focuses only on mitigation measures to provide the cover for projects like the Kaiduan.

“The EIA is just a procedure,” said Yong in touching on the memorandum presented by Nousi. “We fear that it will not stop the project from going ahead.”

The SAPP leader said further he expects the BN to halt the project only if it expects to lose more than the Moyog state seat which straddles the Kaiduan dam area.

The state government had previously announced that the proposed Kaiduan dam project was still at the conceptual stage.

It also indicated that the project may not go ahead if other alternatives to supply Kota Kinabalu and nearby areas with water could be found.

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