KUCHING, Nov 4, 2015:
The Orang Ulu community affected by the Bakun Hydroelectric Project (HEP) is crying foul over the way they are treated by Sarawak Hidro. They are alleging the corporation is not doing enough for them.
Several community leaders from the area reached out to The Rakyat Post to air their grievances after the issue was raised by state Culture and Heritage Assistant Minister Liwan Lagang last week.
One of the community members representing the Kenyah community claimed Sarawak Hidro employed locals for their operations, but not at the senior or decision-making level.
“Based on our knowledge, locals employed by Sarawak Hidro are normal technicians, drivers and general workers.
“Only a few of our locals are at the decision-making level.
“If they are genuinely sincere in wanting to help with community development, it is high time for them to employ fresh graduates from the surrounding community as apprentices, train them and prepare their talents to manage Sarawak Hidro.
“It is never too late,” said Kenyah National Association president Kennedy Chuk.
Kennedy, who is from Uma Bakah in Sungai Asap, is also one of those relocated due to the Bakun HEP.
Sarawak Hidro is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Finance Ministry established five years ago with the objective to developed and manage Bakun HEP.
However, the community claimed the corporation was not doing much to help them.
Previously, Liwan had alleged that the state was disappointed with Sarawak Hidro over their lack of corporate social responsibility (CSR) towards the affected community.
Three days after the issue was raised in The Rakyat Post, Sarawak Hidro managing director Zulkifle Othman disputed Liwan’s findings.
He said that they provided a minimum annual allocation of RM1 million to improve the lives of the affected communities, particularly within Sungai Asap.
Zulkifle also said the corporation had been engaging locals in their workforce since beginning its operations, adding that the number of Sarawakians employed accounted for 75% of their permanent employees and 33% were from the local community.
Sarawak Hidro also said its presence had also provided locals with business opportunities and they had also assisted schools in the surrounding areas.
Despite all this, Kennedy remained sceptical with Sarawak Hidro’s claims, saying business opportunities in Bakun, such as supply of consumable items, spare parts, labour, minor repair and maintenance, which locals were capable of taking part in, were still being monopolised by vendors outside Belaga, with some provided by peninsula-based companies.
“We are the ones directly affected by the dam and our capable youths should be given priority,” said Kennedy.
Similar views were also raised by Kayan Association chairman Thomas Balan who claimed that there was no evidence of school assistance provided by the corporation.
“Even if they did, it is minimal. They could have done more. They claimed that 75% of their workforce are locals, but how many of them are at the decision-making level?
“And why are we, as the community leaders, not aware of their activities?” said Thomas.
Orang Ulu National Association’s Belaga chairman Unak Akah also said the community was not aware of what Zulkifle was reported to have said in the news reports.
“As chairman, I am not aware of the funds and activities carried out by the corporation.
“They might have channelled it through other means, but as the association responsible for the Orang Ulu in Belaga, I am puzzled that I have been not informed of these developments.
“If they have provided assistance to schools, why are we still having requests from schools that still lack the necessary equipment?”
“Is it because that they are based in Kuala Lumpur? Is not having a regional office nearby the dam making them so ill-informed of the real situation on the ground?” asked Unak.
Bakun is situated within the Belaga district, which shares the same waterway as Murum.