• The delegates from Sarawak will be making a public presentation regarding Sarawak Energy Berhad’s dam building ventures in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.  This will take place on Tuesday night, Dec 4, at the Republic Hotel, at 7:00pm [http://www.facebook.com/events/495163453851350]

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In my mind, Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo) has been a Tasmanian story about how Ta Ann, a Malay company which came to Tasmania, has set up two mills which produce veneer for later offshore on-processing.  (I actually wonder these days if their Tasmanian involvement is/was an attempt to ‘greenwash’ their own domestic operations).

Forestry Tasmania were hand in glove with them and when I heard how Ta Ann Tasmania’s parent company in Malaysia, Ta Ann Holdings Berhad, was logging in Sarawak, in environmentally negative ways, I was glad to hear about it for my own domestic considerations.  I heard about the plight of the orang-utang and of palm oil plantations.  Great!  Our case against Ta Ann Tasmania, against Foresty Tasmania was all the stronger.  Do you get the idea?  It (in my mind) was all about us - Tasmanians, and our forests.  That is, foreign issues were important if we could use them as aids in our own domestic imbroglio.  It wasn’t cynical, for me, it was unconscious.  I had heard a bit about Hydro Tasmania and how it was working in Sarawak to build hydro-electric dams and how somehow that meant that there were some human rights issues created ‘over there’ as a result of what our Tasmanian Government Business Enterprise was doing. 

Oh boy!  Yesterday, I learnt some more.  I went to a meeting at Fresh Cafe, Charles St Launceston, which I think was sponsored by Adam Burling, known to us through his links to the Greens and also to forest activism.  Kim Booth, another activist come Green parliamentarian, was also there.  We were there to meet and listen to three Malaysians who had come from Sarawak Borneo to Tasmania on a desperate mission, to ask us Tasmanians to help.  Why?

Because ... The Malaysian state of Sarawak is about to be transformed by a major programme of dam construction which will displace tens of thousands of people and destroy many wild rivers.

Yesterday (Sun, 2Dec2012), in Launceston, ‘James’, an indigenous leader from Sarawak who has come with two fellow countrymen to Tasmania to ask us for help, spoke to us here in Launceston. 

Why Tasmania? 

The reason is simple.  Hydro Tasmania is a major partner in, and, as we were told, “the brains behind” the 12 proposed dams planned for construction in their homelands.  While here in Tasmania, the group of three will meet with Minister Bryan Green to tell him of their plight.  They told our Launceston meeting how they did not trust the promises that had been made to them, of land and free housing after the dams are built. 

Previous experience with another Sarawak community affected by such a dam had shown that the land available for resettlement was not fertile or useful, and was surrounded by palm-oil plantations.  There was no forest nearby which traditionally is used as a resource.  “The forest is our supermarket”, we were told.  In their village, money was little used.  Mostly the village was self sufficient, though I think it was said they bought oil for power generation.  Land that has been cleared is used for agriculture and the forest is a backup resource. 

In their village, they have a way of life and an identity.  In a relocated area, with no developed agriculture, with no forest ‘supermarket’, with housing charges yet with no cash ‘jobs’, how could their people survive?  The threat of the future is that a relocated community will fail, and that their peope will then be forced to move to the cities to find this thing called a ‘job’ which is necessary in a modern cash economy.

‘James’ is the headman in his village.  I think he said that there were about four hundred people in his village and also that in the forests along the Murum River, some seven/several hundred villages are under immediate threat from the Murum Dam [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murum_Dam]

The delegation from Sarawak will be sitting in on the GBE (Government Buisiness Enterprise) scrutiny committee hearings at 2 PM on Wednesday, December 5, at which Hydro Tasmania will be questioned about their involvement in Sarawak.  Let’s go and show our support for the indigenous Sarawakians fighting for their livelihood, environment and cultural identity by attending a group vigil to be held at the Hydro offices in Hobart, and escorting the Sarawakian delegation to Parliament House in solidarity with their request that Hydro Tasmania ceases its involvement in the ingoing displacement and mistreatment of Sarawakians by Taib Mahmud’s (Chief Minister, Sarawak, Malaysia)  regime.

The delegates from Sarawak will be making a public presentation regarding Sarawak Energy Berhad’s dam building ventures in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.  This will take place on Tuesday night, Dec 4, at the Republic Hotel, at 7:00pm [http://www.facebook.com/events/495163453851350]

I listened to the three men tell their stories, stories of false promises, of political intimidation, of imminent forced re-location and of the potential disintegration of indigenous communities.  ‘Peter’ mentioned to us how Malays had been on the side of Australians during WWII, and had been our friends during those years in the fight against the Japanese.  Then there had been ‘konfrontasi’ when Indonesia had commenced military aggression against the Malaysian federation.  We Australians had helped them resist the Indonesian confrontation.  But now, in Sarawak, Malays find that we Australians are involved in what I will call ‘economic aggression’ against them.  Yes, that is our own GBE Hydro Tasmania.  Hydo Tas. in the past has said that it is a pro-environment organisation, and that it is only providing technical assistance for what is a domestic initiative in Sarawak.

Yet our Malay guests told us that Hydro Tasmania had taken an active role in advancing the Murum dam project.  We were told that they weren’t there just in a technical capacity, but had taken an active role in speaking to villagers to convince them to agree to the project.  Forgive me for my mistakes of memory, but I think I have the gist of what they told us - correctly.  I wish I could write this better, and with more knowledge.  Please, we must find a way to help.