Sunday January 13, 2013
Cool heads rule
By STEPHEN THEN
MIRI: A state assemblyman has appealed to Penans in ulu Baram not to disrupt the RM4bil Petronas Sarawak-Sabah transboundary gas pipeline project.
Dennis Ngau, who is Telang Usan assemblyman, yesterday said he had to intervene to resolve yet another blockade staged against the 600km project in the area to prevent the problem from escalating.
He told The Star yesterday that he had to go to Camp 5 located in the central Baram region two days ago to resolve the latest round of dispute between the Penans of Long Kawa and Petronas contractors involved in the pipeline project to channel gas from Kimanis in Sabah to Bintulu in northern Sarawak.
“I have appealed to the interior natives to stop disrupting the project. The project is vital not only to the future economic progress of the state but also to transform the standard of life in the interior. This is because the project involved building roads that will link the interior with urban areas.
“The project also does not cause too much harm to the ecosystem or the environment. It is not destroying any large area of land. It involves laying big pipelines and does not jeopardise any settlements,” he said.
“A few days ago, I was informed of a blockade erected by the Penans in Long Kawa along Camp 5 site where Petronas workers are laying the pipeline.
“I was asked by some of the natives to negotiate for a settlement. I went in and resolved the issue between Petronas contractors and the Penans and ended the blockade.
“But I am appealing to all to stop using this blockade tactics because it is too disruptive. There are other means to resolve any dispute at the sites without having to disrupt the project.
“I am willing to assist in any negotiations to end any dispute. Resorting to blockades will only create bigger controversies,” he said when asked upon his arrival back here.
Ngau, who is Baram PBB Youth chief, explained that the Penans had erected the blockade at Camp 5 because they were unhappy.
“The protesters said they were de-nied job opportunities by the contractors at the site. The contractors, however, denied that they had refu-sed to hire the Penans.
“They said Penan workers were hired previously but some failed to turn up for work. That is why they hired other workers.
“Whatever the reason, I have urged both sides to try to meet each other’s needs and to cooperate for the sake of the project. Most importantly, there must not be protests that can jeopardise the smooth implementation of the project,” he said.
The Star later spoke to Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia regarding the issue. The institute is a watchdog group based in Miri. It is involved in monitoring human rights and environmental issues in Sarawak.
Institute coordinator Raymond Abin said many natives were against the pipeline project because they claimed that though their land were affected, the project would not benefit them.
“The natives claimed there was no proper road built along the route of the pipeline but only muddy track.
“Many of the natives said the pipelines are being laid across their land without their consent,” he said.
Abin said he was not aware of the latest blockade in Long Kawa, adding that his organisation did not provoke such action.
The gas pipeline project started more than two years ago and is expected to be completed by the end of this year or early next year.
It will pass through Kimanis town to the Sabah-Sarawak border into La-was, Limbang, Long Lama, Long Be-dian, central Baram basin and down south to the Marudi-Miri district and into Bintulu division to the Petronas gas processing plant in Kidurong.