Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s recent visit to the sleepy hollow of Long Lama, a remote logging outpost in Sarawak’s vast Baram region, was met with protests from indigenous groups over many issues plaguing their community.
Some 70 people took their protest right up to the doorsteps of Baram MP Jacob Dungau Sagan’s office, which hosted a function featuring Taib as the guest-of-honour last Saturday.
The protesters were armed with the placards with demands that included “Stop Baram dam!” and “Return our traditional land”.
NONEPeter Kallang, who heads the environmental group Save Rivers Network, told Malaysiakini that the protesters included Penan who travelled eight hours by boat to join the protest.
“Some of them had to pay up to RM300 for a round trip by boat to get there. In contrast, Taib and his entourage came in three helicopters,” Kallang said.
During the protest, he said, there were police personnel who tried to confiscate his loudhailer when he spoke to the protesters.
“I said that if Taib could use a loudspeaker, I should be given the same treatment.
“After that, the police gave me five minutes to talk. I complied because I didn’t want them to disturb us,” he said.
Kallang said the protesters also tried to hand over a protest note containing 3,000 signatures against the Baram dam to Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu Numpang.
However, Alfred Jabu refused to accept the document and shooed them off.
Some had to camp out
On the BN event, Kallang said there were about 400 people in attendance, all rural indigenous folk who were brought to the event in four-wheel drive vehicles by BN UMNO workers.
NONE”Some of the Penan folk told me that they were under the impression that they were brought there to receive BR1M,” he said, referring to the Najib administration’s 1Malaysia People’s Aid RM500 cash handout programme.
Although some people qualified for BR1M, he said, those who didn’t received between RM50 and RM100 each as a token for their attendance.
After the event ended, not everyone who was brought to the event were provided with transportation back to their respective villages.
“About 20 people were stranded and stayed overnight under the tent where Taib spoke. We had to buy food for them,” Kallang added.