In Focus

The brouhaha over the Bakun hydroelectric project in Malaysia continues. Recently, the Bakun Region People's Committee (BRPC) met to discuss the various issues which affected the people in connection with implementation of the project. The committee called upon the government to "seriously reconsider and/or review its decision to implement the project in view of the numerous unresolved issues and problems surrounding it.' The BRPC is especially insistent on people's participation in resolving the issue. In that regard, it has asked the parties involved to honour the June 19, 1996 High Court (Kuala Lumpur) order which ruled that affected people be given the right and opportunity to air their views.

The people of the region have opposed the Bakun resettlement programme. According to them, the land provided for resettlement is inadequate; the programme could lead to ethnic clashes over land; the policy of charging each family a certain amount for building the houses was wrong; and, the resettlement itself and establishment of proposed oil plantations in the region will result in extensive loss of one of Sarawak's only remaining rainforest reserves .

In another related development, the environmental group Friends of the Earth has urged the only British company to have won a contract for the project, to pull out of the deal. However, Bucknall Group, the said company, has refused to reconsider its stand. Environmentalist pressure groups have been urging the Swiss-Swedish conglomerate, ABB, which is the leading Western contractor for the project, to say no to the contract.

The Malaysian government has lashed back with a crackdown on the nation's NGOs which have been in the vanguard of the protest movement against the dam.

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