Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bengoh dam's hardsell tactics working?

How do you persuade the villagers to give up their ancestral lands so that infra structures meant for other people can be built where these folks have lived for generations? The Bengoh dam make a good case study of how hard sell `works'! The villagers were united not to go at the beginning-but slowly their resistance was worn down by a combination of  segmentalised breakthrough, cash inducement and more other promises which are not even confirmed at the time of the promises were made! Let's look at the 3 step strategies here:

Hard sell involved to remove the original inhabitants of upper-Bengoh?

STEP 1: From the villagers' information the government as the instigator of the dam project first targeted the 10 civil servants families in Kampong Taba Sait-the village closest to the main road. Once the civil servants are overcome (possibly with inducement of promotions,or threat of sacking?) they were probably turned into the government's tools to push other members of the villagers to fall in line. Given that civil servants are held in high esteem by the local community the roping in of these civil servants were strategic for the dam instigator. And this is definitely not the first time the government utilise the civil servants to push even unpopular government projects onto the people! Other than this group of village families the chiefs of the villagers were probably given loads of carrot and stick treatment to get these government salaried headmen to toe the line. (Already numerous headmen elsewhere were sacked after the state elections where they were accused of supporting the opposition!)

STEP 2: The villagers were given compensation money without a copy of the agreement so that the villagers could be coaxed into accepting the money with misguided idea of the deal eg they don't have to move out of their ancestral lands -just move to higher grounds in their own NCR lands.Many villagers interviewed in the forthcoming new film on Bengoh complained that they had been con by dam promoters into accepting compensation money which require them to move out totally from their ancestral lands! Combined with the recent federal court's judgement on Bato Bagi's case these villagers are caught between a steep cliff in front and a hard place behind!

STEP 3: many promises had been instrumental to persuade the villagers to accept the dam eg the villagers were promised the possibility of rearing fish in the reservoir eg the Mambong MP Dr James Dawos was recorded in a 2005 speech to the villagers that it is possible to rear fish in Kenyir dam and other dams in the Penisular-implying that there are similar opportunities for Bengoh dam as well. Then after the villagers were told that they had to move to Kampong Semadang, into a new housing named Taman Tun Abdul Razak, the promise turned into free house for each family-most recently made by the Bengoh candidate Dr Jerip Susil. But a press report shows that months after the state elections where the promises was made the free houses remain a proposal which has yet to be approved! In fact the `free' housing in Bakun dam resettlement was only approved more than 10 years after the residents refused to pay for them, and when there was a challenge to win the Belaga state seat!

Was it a free consent by the villagers to move out of their ancestral lands or that they were unfairly pressured to forsake what belong to them under the NCR laws? Would Kuching residents allow such hardsell tactics to be used in their name to remove these villagers?

2 press reports to show some truth behind the Bengoh villagers' `agreement' to move out of their ancestral land to make way for the dam. 

Compensation not enough, say affected villagers

August 22, 2010, Sunday(Borneo post)
KUCHING: Many villagers from Kampung Taba Sait, which is affected by the Bengoh Dam project, are reluctant to move to the new resettlement area despite the compensation of a free house and plot of land for each family to farm.

The reason for their reluctance is that they are not satisfied with the compensation.
As an alternative, some villagers are moving to higher ground, which is nearer to the present site. They started doing this on what was left of their Native Customary Right (NCR) land about a year ago.
According to the majority of the villagers, the compensation was       ‘not worth it at all’, given that the entire village will be totally submerged once the dam is fully operational.
A villager from the nearest village, Kampung Taba Sait, which is a three-hour trek from Bengoh Dam, said the villagers would lose their farms and houses once the dam got flooded.
A 43-year-old lady who wished anonymity lamented: “We are mostly farmers. There is nothing else we can do to survive, except farming. If we were to relocate, we will definitely lose our source of income. On top of that we will lose our ancestral and NCR land, which is worth more than the compensation.”
According to her, the families willing to move were those employed by the civil service.
“There are 50 families here. Only 10 families (government servants) are willing to be relocated,” she revealed.
“Of course the house will be given free under the ‘Projek Perumahan Rakyat Termiskin’ (PPRT) and three acres of land for us to farm, but we still have to pay for electricity, water bills and other expenses.
“The three acres of land per household is just not enough for us to farm, and we are not allowed to rear livestock,” she pointed out.
She explained that before the Bengoh Dam started, the villagers had submitted a memorandum to the authorities on what kind of compensation they need and the preferred relocation site.
However, none of these requests were considered, she added.
“In the beginning, they (authority) said we do not need to move or relocate. They said once the dam is completed, they would provide more infrastructure to us here like access roads and electricity and we get to keep our NCR land for farming.
“But now it’s totally different from what they had promised. Now we have mixed feelings (about the government),” she groused.
She said if the government were to provide more compensation and free land with titles, equivalent to the land they would lose, then the villagers would consider.
“The three-acre land per household at the relocated village is just not enough.
Even the PPRT… not everyone will qualify for it,” she pointed out.
For that reason, the villagers decided to set up a new village on higher ground since a year ago.
thesundaypost and a national paper were given a privileged peek at the new village, which is about 30 minutes’ walk from Kampung Taba Sait.
A 38-year-old villager, who only wanted to be identified as ‘Maja’, said the construction of the new village for Kampung Taba Sait started a year ago, with 49 villagers building their homes there.
“We have not all moved there yet as the houses are still being built,” he said.
Another villager, named Nugung, 45, said the village was yet to be named. He said once the dam got flooded, they would have to find a new access track into the village as the old one would be submerged together with Kampung Taba Sait.
Construction work started on the Bengoh Dam in 2007 at a site about 50 kilometres away from Kuching City and two kilometres from Kampung Bengoh.
The dam, which will rise about 60 metres above the river once the dam is fully operational, will serve as a catchment area and reservoir to meet the demand for water by the increasing population of Kuching and those in the surrounding areas.
The other affected villages are Kampung Semban, Rejoi and Kiding.

Empangan Bengoh: Belum ada kata putus

by Sandy Mark Luna. Posted on January 20, 2011, Thursday
Kerajaan tiada keputusan untuk beri penempatan percuma kepada penduduk: Abang Jo

KUCHING: Kerajaan belum mempunyai kata putus sama ada akan memberi penempatan secara per-cuma kepada penduduk kampung yang terjejas oleh projek pembinaan Empangan Bengoh.
Menteri Perumahan dan Pembangunan Bandar Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg berkata, sehingga ini belum ada keputusan yang dibuat kerana formula terbaik yang memanfaatkan kedua-dua pihak masih belum dijumpai.
“Setakat ini belum ada keputusan yang konkrit dibuat kerana perbincangan masih berjalan dan (Menteri Pembangunan Infrastruktur dan Komunikasi) Dato Sri Michael Manyin mengetuai jawatankuasa untuk perbincangan itu dan rundingan sedang berjalan,” katanya ketika ditemui pemberita selepas Majlis Sukat Tanah untuk penduduk Kampung Kudei Baru Tengah di Surau Kampung Kudei Baru Tengah, Jalan Nanas, di sini, semalam.
Beliau berkata demikian sama ada kerajaan akan mempertimbangkan permintaan penduduk-penduduk kampung yang ter-jejas, iaitu salah satu syarat sebelum mereka dipindahkan ialah diberi rumah secara percuma.
Abang Johari berkata, kerajaan sedar dengan permintaan penduduk per-kampungan Bidayuh yang terjejas tetapi ia bergantung dengan peruntukan yang diberikan.
Menurutnya, mereka juga sudah meminta peruntukan daripada kerajaan pusat tetapi belum ada maklum balas.
Projek pembinaan Empangan Bengoh yang bernilai RM315 juta dimulakan pada 2007 di kawasan seluas kira-kira 50 kilometer dari pusat bandar raya.
Antara kampung yang terjejas berikutan projek itu adalah Kampung Taba Sait, Kampung Bojong, Pain, Rejoi dan Semban dan melibatkan 394 keluarga diminta pindah ke kawasan baru yang dikenal pasti oleh kerajaan.
Apabila siap, empangan tersebut akan membekalkan air bersih mencukupi kepada penduduk Kuching yang dijangka semakin bertambah bilangannya.

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