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Revisit Sarawak natives displaced by Bakun dam during your time, Malaysia PM told

By Ida Lim Malay Mail June 19, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should pay a visit to the Sarawak natives who were forced to leave their ancestral homes due to the Bakun dam project 20 years ago, human rights activist Kua Kia Soong said today.

Kua, a director of human rights watchdog Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), said it was “ironical” that Dr Mahathir is now the country’s new prime minister as 10,000 people of 15 ethnic groups from the indigenous community were displaced for the Bakun dam in 1998, which was during his previous 22-year rule as prime minister from 1981 to 2003.

In a Suaram mission in the 1990s to monitor the situation in the Sungai Asap resettlement area in Sarawak just half a year after their displacement, Kua said the human rights group had found the place to be akin to a “ghetto”.

“I appeal to Dr Mahathir to pay a visit to the Sungai Asap resettlement scheme to see these 10,000 indigenous people who had been displaced, what life is like for them, what housing is like for them,” he said at the launch of Suaram’s Malaysia Human Rights Report 2017 today.

Kua noted that the previous prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was said to be the first prime minister to have visited the Sungai Asap resettlement site, urging the new prime minister to also visit them.

“So I would call upon Dr Mahathir to pay Sungai Asap resettlement scheme a visit and see how he can improve the livelihood of the people there,” Kua added.

Ahead of Najib’s 2011 visit to Sungai Asap, local daily The Star had reported that the natives that lost their homes due to the Bakun dam project had yet to be given land titles for their new houses and land in Sungai Asap after 13 years of resettlement.

Even as recent as last April, Sungai Asap villagers were reported to still lack a regular supply of clean water, and sometimes endure dry taps or murky water after close to 20 years.

The Bakun dam is believed to be the largest hydroelectric dam in South-east Asia.

The Bakun dam project took place during the rule of then Sarawak chief minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, who had held the post for 33 years from 1981 to 2014.

From:  MALAY MAIL (Malaysia) June 19, 2018

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