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Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

Statement: Respect Indigenous Penan’s Native Customary Rights over the Murum Dam Project

We, indigenous organizations from Malaysia and Asia, are deeply concerned about the Sarawak State Government’s actions against the Indigneous Penans protesting the impounding of water at the Murum Dam in Ulu Belaga, Sarawak.

Reports from the people on the ground and newspapers indicate that the police have arrested at least ten indigenous Penans including two minors, took down banners, and dismantled wooden barriers and seized their donation box with money amounting to RM700.00. The barriers are set up by the indigenous protesters blocking the passage to the $1.3 billion Murum Dam. The dam is expected to flood 245 square kilometres (95 square miles) and cause 1,500 Penan and 80 Kenyah natives to lose their homes.

We are concerned that the State Government of Sarawak and Mega dam developer Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) are adamant to go ahead and have not reviewed the compensation package despite their earlier assurances.

The Malaysian government voted in favor of the adoption the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) on 13 September 2007.  Fundamental principles of the UNDRIP include the right of indigenous populations to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent where decisions related to native customary lands are concerned.  In relation to the Murum Dam project, the UNDRIP provides for the right of the indigenous Penans to free prior and informed consent, a right that is clearly violated in this case.  Likewise, the right of the affected indigenous Penans to peaceful assembly and to air their grievances are protected by the UNDRIP and other international instruments.

We are disappointed that instead of ensuring the protection of the rights of the indigenous peoples in Sarawak, the State government is employing harassment, intimidation and arrest to stifle the opposition of the indigenous peoples. To make matters worse, the affected indigenous peoples are yet to receive any payment for their lands taken or used by the government to build the Murum Dam.

While we are thankful for the immediate release of the ten indigenous Penans who were arrested, we remain concerned on further violation of their rights to peaceful assembly.  We received reports of continuing aggressive harassment and intimidation of the protesting indigenous peoples by police forces.

Additional reports from the ground indicate that police forces operating in the Murum Dam and facing the protesters appear to be intoxicated with alcoholic drinks allegedly being provided by the Sarawak Energy Berhad.  Penans who have been trying to negotiate with the police forces report that they could smell alcohol from the policemen.

We are deeply concerned at any untoward incident that may happen and for the safety of the protesters with the current drinking spree of the police forces especially those in full battle gear. 

We therefore call on the government to stop the current impounding of Murum Dam and meet the demands of the affected indigenous Penans.  Immediate measures must be taken to ensure the safety and welfare of those who have already been moved to the Tegulang resettlement area.

We further urge the Malaysian government, energy companies and other businesses to ensure and respect the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination and free prior and informed consent on projects that may affect indigenous peoples.

We urge the State Government of Sarawak and the Sarawak Energy Berhad to cease from harassing and intimidating the indigenous peoples who are defending their rights over their Native Customary Rights (NCR) Lands.

We call on the State Government of Sarawak to reconsider and pull out the current police forces stationed in the Murum Dam site to avoid further conflicts and violations of their rights.  We further call on the State Government of Sarawak to investigate the reports of the intoxicated policemen and impose a strict ban on drinking for police forces while they are on duty.


Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)

Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)

Partners of Community Organisations in Sabah (PACOS Trust)

Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers Association (SILA)

Borneo Resources Institute, Malaysia (BRIMAS)

Save Sarawak Rivers (SAVE Rivers)

The Sarawak Native Customary Land Rights Network (TAHABAS)

Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)


For reference:

Abun Sui Anyit
Legal Adviser for the Penans
Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers Association (SILA)
Tel:  +60168881502


YB Tan Sri Datuk Amar Haji Mohammad Morshidi Bin Abdul Ghani
State Secretary of Sarawak 
20th Floor, Wisma Bapa Malaysia 
Petra Jaya, 93502 Kuching, 
Sarawak, Malaysia 
FAX: +6082-441677 

Datu Haji Abdul Razak Tready 
Sarawak Attorney-General 
State AG’s Chambers 
Level 16, Wisma Bapa Malaysia, 
Petra Jaya 
93502 Kuching, 
Sarawak, Malaysia 
FAX: +6082-440525 

Tan Sri Musa bin Dato’ Hj Hassan 
Ketua Polis Negara 
Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia 
Bukit Aman,50560 Kuala Lumpur 
FAX: +603-22731326 

Datuk Muhammad Sabtu Osman
Ketua Polis Negeri 
Ibupejabat Polis Kontinjen Sarawak 
Polis Diraja Malaysia 
Jalan Badruddin,93560 Kuching, 
Sarawak, Malaysia 
FAX: +6082-257664