The Borneo-based SAVE Rivers Network has condemned the use of a cleansing ritual at the proposed Baram Dam site in Sarawak.
The Kayan-Kenyah customary practice known as ‘Mayau Dalleh’ is normally used to cleanse a community after it has been struck by a disaster. However, a delegation of government officials, the Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) and a few community leaders recently held the ritual, it seems, to welcome a disaster in the making: the relocation of 20,000 indigenous peoples and the submersion of 38,900 hectares of their native customary rights (NCR) land. Below, a press release from SAVE Rivers Network.
26 April 2012
MIRI – SAVE Rivers Network condemns the adat ‘Mayau Dalleh’ or cleansing ritual that was conducted at the proposed Baram Dam site at Nahah Itun Uvek, just below the village of Long Na’ah last Saturday by the delegation of officials from the state government, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) and a few community leaders headed by Senator Lihan Jok.
SAVE Rivers would like to state that the ritual was done for the wrong reasons. According to the adat Kayan-Kenyah, the ritual of ‘Mayau Dalleh’ is normally done to cleanse the land after a calamity or disaster has struck the community. However, no calamity or disaster has happened in Baram and by going ahead with the ritual it shows that the delegation does not respect of the customs and traditions of the Kayan-Kenyah community.
“How could Sarawak Energy and the government hold our traditional ‘Mayau Dalleh’ prayer ritual for blessing a dam which will destroy our Baram culture? This ceremony has traditionally been held in cases of natural disasters and calamities, but now Sarawak Energy and the government abuse our customs to justify their controversial project!”, explains Philip Jau, chairman of the Baram Protection Action Committee (BPAC).
The ritual itself did not receive good response from community leaders in Baram. According to Johannes Luhat, a community representative from Long San and one of the village affected, “Out of the 43 community leaders invited to the ritual, less than 10 turned up. Most of them left early in the morning, prior to the ritual.
“I talked to some of them before they left and they told me that they refused to go to the proposed dam site as they are also against it. It is a big lie if Senator Lihan Jok and YB Dennis Ngau claimed that most of the Baram folks agree to the dam”, stressed Johannes.
SAVE Rivers also wants to know the rationale of setting up two separate committees, the Baram HEP Consultative Committee chaired by Baram MP, Dato’ Jacob Dungau Sagan and the recently formed Baram Hydroelectric Dam Development and Consultation Committee chaired by Senator Lihan Jok.
“The setting up of these two committees is causing confusion amongst the people of Baram. People are not sure which committee has the authority to consult with the communities and thus shows that the government does not have a proper plan to deal with the affected communities,” said Peter Kallang, chairman of SAVE Rivers.
Peter also said that it was wrong for Senator Lihan to say that the NGOs are not from Baram. Most of the committee members in the SAVE Rivers Network are from Baram either affected directly or indirectly by the dam.
Press Statement release by:
SAVE Rivers Network
Indigenous Peoples are putting their bodies on the line and it's our responsibility to make sure you know why. That takes time, expertise and resources - and we're up against a constant tide of misinformation and distorted coverage. By supporting IC you're empowering the kind of journalism we need, at the moment we need it most.