Friday, March 27, 2009

Claims people mistreated false: Masing

Masing denies resettlements of people affected by hydroelectric dams taken lightly

BINTULU: Land Development Minister Dato Sri Dr James Masing last night refuted claims that the state government had ridden roughshod over the people in its programme to build hydroelectric dams.

Dato Sri Dr James Masing Denying that the resettlements of the people affected by dams were taken lightly, he said in the development of Murum, the latest dam in Sarawak, the government had the help of Australian anthropologists and sociologists.

And in the case of Batang Ai and Bakun dams, the government sought the assistance of Australian experts in planning for the resettlement schemes and the help of German sociologists, respectively.

“Along with these experts, we put in place local experts to help. Therefore to accuse this government of not caring for the welfare of those affected by the dam is inaccurate. I was involved in the planning of resettlement programmes of the first two dams,” he said.

Speaking at the 28th anniversary celebration of Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s political career as chief minister, Masing said the state wants to provide cheap, clean and renewable energy for its industries.

“In reducing the possible fallout of hydroelectric dams, the government has and will seek help from foreign as well as local experts in establishing resettlement programmes which cater for both the needs of older generation who wish to dwell in the past and the younger generation who wish to move forward.

“The government has not and will not ignore the needs of both generations. Our Chief Minister understands all these and demands assistance from all quarters,” he said.

Earlier on, he revealed that he first had a glimpse of Taib’s plans to harness the state’s hydro resources on a larger scale during a dinner not long after he was appointed Land Development Minister.

He said Taib had asked him what he wanted to do next to generate income for the people after he had planted idle native customary land (NCL) with palm oil.

The answer was in “cheap electricity” generated by the amount of rain the state has and the fast flowing rivers.

By harnessing the rivers, Sarawak would be able to provide cheap, clean, and renewable energy and this would then attract industries, provide employment, and ultimately, better livelihood for the people, he said.

“The logic of economic progression as visualised by our Chief Minister is simple and easy for us to see.

“But it does require our political will, strength of our conviction and above all, we must be able to withstand the criticisms that will be thrown at us.

“Some of our critics do so out of ignorance, some out of jealousy and some simply out of ill will.

“Our Chief Minister must have seen and anticipated all of these and thus despite them, he just carries on.

“The spin-offs of cheap energy are many. All we need to do is put on our thinking caps and find ways to utilise it,” Masing said.

Similarly, he said, big industrial players would be reluctant to invest in Sarawak if it did not have sufficient quality manpower and because of that Taib had invited international tertiary institutions to spread their wings to Sarawak.

Masing believed that Taib had already envisioned such developments for the state 28 years ago.

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