KUCHING: Belaga assemblyman Liwan Lagang will meet Penan community leaders tomorrow to persuade them to end the blockade near the proposed Murum hydroelectric dam site.
He said he would be meeting State Secretary Tan Sri Datuk Amar Morshidi Abdul Ghani today on the same matter before flying to Murum.
“The Penan (in Murum) are very reasonable people. They don’t demand the moons and the stars. Actually they just want to air their requests to the relevant authorities,” Liwan told The Borneo Post here yesterday.
Liwan, whose great-great grandfather is a Penan, has vast experiences in dealing with the semi-nomadic tribe which is affected by the construction of the dam.
Before he joined politics, he was a headmaster at Lisong Laku, the heartland of the Penans, from 1987 till 1988, and later as a district education officer in Belaga where he too had dealings them.
“I believe I can convey whatever issues they (Penan) are unhappy about to the relevant authorities, and, hopefully, by then they would stop the blockade so that work can resume,” said Liwan, who is also the Assistant Minister of Culture and Heritage.
The Penan from Murum had erected a blockade near the dam site since Sept 28 and demanded that the relevant authorities look into their requests.
Liwan’s name was recommended by land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing.
He agreed with Masing that the government must be willing to reach out to the Penan there to find out their grievances.
Masing had told The Borneo Post on Monday that the state government should explain in further detail to the Penan affected by the construction of the dam so that they would understand the benefits of the project.
He added that there was a need for better communications between the implementers of the project and the people at the grassroot level.
“I have made a recommendation to the steering committee to include Assistant Minister of Culture and Heritage Liwan Lagang to be part of the team which oversees the implementation of the project.
“Liwan has a vast experience working with the Penan in Murum, even before he even joined politics.
“My recommendation to the steering committee is that we need to have a better communication system so that any changes that we make must be for the better.”
Masing had reiterated that the Penan in Murum were not against the project per se but were unhappy with some of the things which were implemented without proper communication with them.
“And they did make the blockade last week on their own as they were also instigated by some NGOs, especially from Miri.”
The proposed Murum Dam is the second mega-dam project after the Bakum dam. It is located about 70km upriver from Bakun HEP dam, which has started transmitting power on Aug 6, last year.
The Murum HEP project has a power generating capacity of 944 MW. Work started on Oct 1, 2008. The whole project is expected to be completed by end of next year.