First batch of Penan households relocate to new site

BELAGA (Sept 11, 2013): The first batch of 89 Penan households, affected by the Murum dam project, have moved to their settlement site at Long Tegulang, upstream Bakun dam, yesterday.

Belaga state Assemblyman and Assistant Minister of Culture and Heritage Liwan Lagang and Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) Chief Executive Officer Torstein Dale Sjotveit were at the site to provide personal support for the relocation of the Penan households from Long Wat.

The Long Tegulang was selected by the affected community during the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) process.

About 1,500 people consisting of 335 Penan households and 18 Kenyah houses are to be resettled at Long Tegulang and another at Long Matulun.

SEB expects all the households to be relocated at the two sites by the end of the year.

Construction work on the RM3.5 billion Murum dam, with a capacity to generate 944MW of electricity, started in 2008 and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

The impoundment of the dam is scheduled to begin in the first half of next year.

In his speech, Liwan said that he was pleased to see that SEB and the state government officers have been diligent in making careful preparations for the relocations of the affected households.

"The Murum Penans deserve our support and I have been determined to ensure that the resettlement is a success. The process is off to a good start, but I will be working with the community to make sure that all of the government's promises are delivered," he said.

Sjotveit said: "We recognize that the relocation is just the first step in a much longer journey. Sarawak Energy accepts that we have a special obligation to the communities affected by our projects and we are determined to be a good neighbour for the long term.

"Together with the state government, we are committed to support the Murum communities in their transition to sustainable economy and self-sufficiency," he said.

The day began when villagers performed the prayer and ritual ceremony before leaving their old houses at Long Wat.

Former Penghulu, Pao Tului has described this as long-awaited moment to migrate to their new houses which provide good basic amenities such as treated water, electricity, multi-purpose hall and other modern facilities for the first time.

He also noted that several enthusiastic villagers had already have regularly visited their houses and began harvesting the vegetables from their home gardens even before the relocation exercise.